Gig review: Juju, Upstairs at the Ritzy

Arts contributor Petra Gent went along to Saturday’s Juju night at Upstairs at the Ritzy.

Abdoulaye Samb performs solo. Photo credit: Petra Gent
Abdoulaye Samb performs solo. Photo credit: Petra Gent

This weekend I was invited along to the Afro-centric evening Juju at Upstairs at the Ritzy. This is a monthly event of live music and DJ sets from Volta 45. As always I was impressed with the talent that this tiny venue attracts. It is also noticeable how well the room changes to suit the mood of the music.

Mamadou Sarronpercussion
Mamadou Sarr on percussion. Photo credit: Petra Gent

Saturday’s live music came from Abdoulaye Samb and his band Minnjiaraby. What an absolutely beautiful sound these guys make. The first song was Abdoulaye on his own with guitar, and although his considerable talent on the guitar was obvious, it was his voice that drew the audience in immediately. Clear and soft, but with a power behind the vocals that had a hypnotic resonance in the room.

Abdoulaye then invited his band to join him. This included bass guitar, drums and djembe. The whole band sound then brought new levels to the music. As well as a strong emphasis on the rhythmic, the songs were very melodic. Woven into the African roots of the music there was an almost Santana like guitar style and some beautifully intricate bass lines. The energy from the drums and djembe then pushed through to bring a positively dance like vibe to some of the songs.

Minnjiaraby was founded in 2001 by Abdoulaye Samb, a guitarist, composer and singer originally from Senegal. The band name means ‘the love of cultural mixing’ and this is definitely apparent when you hear them perform. Their website mentions original influences being drawn from Fula and Mandinka cultures among many others, but then also makes note of the European and African collaborations that have helped shape Minnjiaraby’s sound.

The band performed two sets and this was interspersed with Volta 45 providing the DJing from his impressive and eclectic vinyl collection.

Minnjiaraby are based in Hackney and regularly perform in London. Their next gig is at SOAS on 30th April.

Written by Petra Gent.