Haymanot Tesfa with Mina Salama and Arian Sadr
"An explosion of astonishing musicianship!"
Saturday 18th April 2015
The Lantern Theatre, Sheffield
This was a real evening of exploration, discovery and invention … musically and culturally.
Previous TalkingGigs have featured well-known artists from the UK and around the world, so this was a bit of a departure: Haymanot Tesfa, Mina Salama and Arian Sadr are 3 young musicians with very different backgrounds, routes to the UK and musical traditions who are now developing a really interesting musical collaboration. The first half of the gig saw them playing and in conversation with Koni Music’s Tony Bowring, during which Arian demonstrated and talked about the Persian daf and tonbak drums, Mina told us a bit about the ney and kawala flutes that he plays, and Haymanot revealed something of her extraordinary vocal range.
The second half was an explosion of astonishing musicianship. The 3 have only played live together 4 or 5 times before so we were all part of a fascinating journey as the 3 explored themes and ideas with each other. They’ve recorded a couple of the songs for Haymanot’s first CD: I’d had the privilege of sitting in on the recording sessions a few weeks earlier, so it was interesting to see how they played around with their familiarity of those songs. Ambassel – a stunning piece from the northern region of Ethiopia – followed the pattern of the recording (available on YouTube at .com/watch?v=xev4Ah14k8A ) but segued beautifully into a piece called The Wind, featuring Arian’s extraordinary playing of the daf drum (a large frame drum with metal ringlets attached to the interior of the frame) bringing to mind all scales of wind from crashing storms to gentle Spring breeze. Many of the other pieces that they played were rooted in the scales of traditional Ethiopian songs – and it was fascinating to watch how each of the 3 focused on each other to see how a groove might develop and be taken in complex directions before coming back to its core. Haymanot’s voice was extraordinary throughout – sometimes a gentle hum behind Mina’s rhythmic playing on the oud and sometimes soaring centre stage full of raw emotion. Mina and Arian both led a couple of ‘solo’ pieces which demonstrated the breadth of influences feeding into their joint work.
The musical interplay was matched by a lovely humour and interaction between all 3. They are definitely a group to look out for – both individually and as a trio. And the engagement and reaction of everyone in the Lantern confirmed that the TalkingGigs format doesn’t need established stars but depends on the artists having something interesting and exciting to say and play.
Photographs by Ayse Balko