Osunlade is a genii of many talents, we know him for his deeply spiritual Afro-entwined house music, his delicate but political statements underpinned with his Piscean Group ensemble. Bringing in the nu-vanguard of house music on his debut album Paradigm ensconced in Afro-Brazilian beats; going through a transformation of my own I happened on Aquarian Moon and it changed my life. Scoring some of the biggest house anthems through the noughties. He dared to take a chance, move away from electronica and reveal his beautiful soul on Rebirth; and who can forget April from the Beyond Elements album? Remixer, a devoted label owner and mentor to his signings – but I had yet to see the Yoruba Soul Orchestra in its entire splendour, until now.
All the hype and excitement of Osunlade bringing YSO to London town was simply worth it. Tickets sold in a matter of hours as I saw a social media frenzy erupt as news of the live act spread amongst fans. Not the first the orchestra has assembled as they did in 2008 and 2012. The 9-piece symphony consists of the man himself, bongo and percussionist Gabriele Poso who’ve had a 17-year music relationship and friendship, songstress Nadirah Shakoor, originally from hip hop ensemble Arrested Development but forged a solo career independently with hits produced by Osunlade. Tony Tarintino on synths, Massimiliano Ingrosso on drums, Gianpaolo Laurentaci on bass, Franco Chirivi on guitars, Emanuele Coluccia on trumpet and special guest Quetzal Guerrero (signings on Yoruba Records) on violin.
Coming towards the end of a mini-tour of Europe, the ensemble settled into stage positions with Poso, leading the intro with vocal prayers, libations and Mo Juba (giving thanks). The deeply spiritual and delicate build transformed into drum melee and Afro-Cuban harmonies. Two tracks in and Nadirah takes the mic to perform a few songs with one of my and many other’s in the crowd’s favourite songs; Tree Of Life. Everyone knew the lyrics and mimed along to her opulent performance.
Violinist and guitarist extraordinaire Queztal Guerrero took us on a reggae dub-laden with Afro-Latin music all to the sound of his magnetic playing. A brief interlude showcases why Gabriele Poso is so damn brilliant as he leads the orchestra into Cantos a Ochun et Oya. The ardour builds as the intoxicating drums race to libations for Orishe – you just had to be there no words. We danced to a latin revision of Dawn Penn’s No No No and the rhythms just kept flowing and the energy high as Osunlade’s timeless semblance encapsulates Mike Steva’s Weekend Love. A serene and tranquil Osunlade emits a graceful sincerity, which is mesmerising to watch. Back for one last track, Osunlade et al takes centre stage and amidst his cool-set vocals, fun is injected in classic a boy versus girl in audience interaction when Envision is played. Yes I think the women won that one!
There are so many artists out there of high-calibre talent and extremely gifted but none as spiritual, diverse, complex, ethereal, individualist and fearless as the musician Osunlade. Furthermore there are fewer who can translate the complexities of self, spirituality and knowledge into tangible music which can crossover to the next generation to capture the imagination of a younger audience. He does with affable repose in the comfort of his musical domain reaching new experiences.
A captivating live show, which everyone wanted to see again it was over too soon and left all on a high. Beautiful vocals throughout with the best of Yoruba Records’ talent, we need to see more live stuff from this musician as his visions for music are far from over. I for one can’t wait to see this again.
Review by Sandra Swaybe-Barrett