Tag Archives: Bwani Junction

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, 6/8/16

It’s déjà vu on the final day of Belladrum, as I find myself once again in the XpoNorth Seedlings tent at the crack of dawn (in festival terms anyway).

We Came From Wolves (2)

This time however it’s with far higher hopes, as Herald Unsigned winners We Came From Wolves are up to kick things off, a band whose moody alt rock has been on my radar since their first demo release in early 2013.

They’ve considerably improved in their craft since then, with far more compelling lyrics deeply rooted not only in strong Glaswegian identity, but also a longing to hit the road, as well as in their stage presence; frontman Kyle Burgess holds the attention of the small crowd with ease despite the early hour.

The highlight of the set comes in the form of new single ‘Ruiner’ (which Burgess self-deprecatingly describes as “about being a wee rat bastart”), a crashing storm of pop punk fury reminiscent of the best of early Twin Atlantic.

I realise I’ve neglected the Grassroots Folk heart of the festival and so spend my next few hours comfortably nestled among the elderly camping chair crew.

Tamzene (3)

It’s not quite my scene, but even then a number of acts stand out: the first, a singer-songwriter by the name of Tamzene appears to have walked straight out of an album cover, and puts on a performance that oozes professionalism.

Despite a powerful voice which could easily impress the likes of industry demon Simon Cowell, she’s instead taken the far more traditional route of recording her own music and building a fan base organically, and judging by the strength of the audience it already appears to be paying off.

Tweed (3)

Ceildh rock band Tweed also catches my attention with their raring traditional music.

Composed of a fiddler, accordionist and drummer, the trio whips the large tent into a frenzy with original compositions and even the odd cover such as Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’, which, under the circumstances, actually sounds surprisingly good.

Admittedly, the gimmick of launching small packets of peanuts into the crowd goes somewhat over my head (literally) but you can’t argue with free snacks.

Man Of Moon (5)

Man Of Moon are the last band I catch before the mysterious main stage secret set, and it’s something of a change of pace; the sudden downpour has sent people flooding into the Hothouse Tent for shelter turning it into less of a ‘hot house’ and more an ‘uncomfortably roasting house’.

It proves to be perfect timing though as the Edinburgh two-piece’s dark and dreamlike sound goes hand in hand with the grey sky just meters away.

The brooding depth they produce within complex riff structures and simmering drums is incredible considering their tiny footprint on the stage, and just as the atmosphere builds to breaking point in Django Django cover ‘Waveforms’, guitarist Chris Bainbridge slices straight through it with a Showbiz era Matt Bellamy-esque guitar scream.

Elsewhere, a similar tension is rising as we wait to see who will take the empty afternoon Garden Stage slot.

Fatherson (16)

The answer, rising Scottish stars Fatherson, is hardly a surprising one: their name seems to appear almost every time the festival encounters a drop-out on its lineup.

The failure to amend the programs however sees the band playing to a crowd, which is initially one-third fans and two-thirds confused Bwani Junction seekers, who are now two to three hours off their initial time slot.

Friday’s sound problems continue to plague the set also as Fatherson enter the stage late and with massively under-mixed vocals, altogether making the decision to shoot a video for their new single then and there a curious one.

Still they deliver a set of their usual caliber to the rain drenched field, one which is nothing exceptional but provides just enough in the way of light rock to cry to, making donning your poncho worthwhile.

Indigo Velvet (13)

In the hunt for something to dry off to I discover Indigo Velvet, the perfect pick-me-up.

Their tropical bubble-gum indie pop is nothing short of addictive and I’m baffled by their low positioning on the Seedlings stage when similar bands such as the 1975 have enjoyed such a meteoric rise to fame with far less charming members; guitarist Jason Tucker in particular is a real pleasure to watch.

Bwani Junction (7)

The feel-good mood continues with Bwani Junction on the main stage performing Paul Simon’s classic album Graceland in its entirety, alongside original vocalist Diane Garisto.

There’s no shortage of smiles in the crowd as a conga line is orchestrated within the short space between opener ‘The Boy In The Bubble’ and ‘I Know What I Know’, rapidly followed up by a couple’s engagement just before ‘You Can Call Me Al’, which is announced onstage by a delighted Dan Muir and only serves to heighten the atmosphere for what is undoubtedly Graceland’s best known track.

It’s a shame to hear that the sound tech is still struggling and Garisto’s stunning vocals are only barely audible throughout, including during duet ‘Crazy Love, Vol. II’.

Still, Muir’s voice triumphs over the incredibly large backing band (featuring a full horn section and bongos) and does justice to Simon’s original.

Public Service Broadcasting (8)

Acknowledging that the festival is almost over with this next set is bitter sweet, and with Public Service Broadcasting’s absurdly long set-up process there’s plenty of downtime to think about it.

Thankfully their novel sample-filled electronica is worth waiting for.

Entirely instrumental, tweed clad keyboardist J. Willgoose, Esq. doesn’t open his mouth once throughout the set, choosing instead to communicate through a text to speech program and add vocal depth to the music using clips from propaganda material and old public information announcements.

It’s bizarre, and hopefully not stagnant on repeat viewings, but they don’t rely on this gimmick to carry them instead crafting genuinely atmospheric and powerful tracks about everything from the space program to airplanes.

I leave early to catch the headliners, but as the band are introduced one by one, the strains of a trumpet cover and deafening sing-along to ‘Flower Of Scotland’ follow me out.

Madness (29)

Said headliners are, of course, Madness, much talked about by almost everyone I’ve spoken to since the site opened.

They pull the biggest crowd of the entire weekend by far, stretching all the way from the stage and up the hills towards the massive glowing metal heart erected at the back of the Garden arena, and I reckon about eighty percent of those people have had a little too much to drink.

Despite lacking the nostalgia factor and not really understanding the hype around Madness, I’m determined to give them the best shot I can.

And it starts off relatively well with almost exactly the same setlist I saw back at Glastonbury: ‘The Prince’ in all its saxophone solo glory and ‘My Girl’ with its cresendo-ing intro go down a treat, as do the bits and pieces of London banter peppered in from frontman Suggs.

However, I seem to have chosen the worst place possible to view the rest of the set from, and once I get there I’m stuck: security are trying to avoid a full-scale riot on the stairs by insisting on a one-way system in which you can come down, but you can’t get back up.

Perched on the steep hill, slick from the day’s rain, I enjoy what I can of the tracks I recognise: ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘House Of Fun’ and ‘Our House’ are as foot-tappingly infectious as ever, but encourage a more active crowd, leading not only to multiple trips down the slopes but also a loud argument between staff on the stairs and irritated patrons.

This continues for most of the rest of the show and by time I’ve escaped, the band have been replaced by a piper who plays, what do you know, ‘Flower Of Scotland’ for the second time that night.

Madness eventually return and finish up with a grand display of fireworks and light, but through no fault of their own the mood has been ruined somewhat.

I wander back to my tent in the rain, for the last time, with an overall positive impression of the weekend but a slightly sour taste in my mouth.

More Photos

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Words/Photos: Aimee Boyle

Celtic Connections: Bwani Junction and “Original Musicians” perform Graceland, Moh! Kouyate at The Old Fruitmarket 23/1/16

Graceland by Paul Simon is an album lauded for its importance in helping to popularise world-music.

Recorded during the tail-end and turbulent years of apartheid in South Africa the record earned Simon a fair amount of controversy for the fact that he hired local black session musicians.

Barney Rachabane, one of the forty-plus musicians that Simon enlisted, has since said, “at a time when there was apartheid in South Africa and blacks like me were nothing but just labourers, he saw beyond that and gave Africans an opportunity to showcase to the world and break the circle of apartheid.”

So, the impact of the record can’t really be understated, and in the year of its 30th anniversary, the waves that Graceland created are still rippling away as the influences of many of today’s young artists.

One such group are Bwani Junction, who decided to cover the whole album from start-to-finish as a fun project in the summer of 2015.

They recruited a local horn-section, as well as accordionist Phil Cunningham for their rendition in Edinburgh’s tiny venue Sneaky Pete’s.

Donald Shaw, organiser of Celtic Connections was in the audience for the show and was so impressed with it that he immediately offered the band the chance to re-play the set at 2016’s festival.

Taking place in the much more grandiose setting of The Old Fruitmarket was not the only twist in store.

Barney Rachabane, Morris Goldberg and Diane Garisto each contributed their musicianship to the creation of Graceland, and all flew into Glasgow to share the stage with Bwani Junction, along with brass group The Doppelgang Horns, Donald Shaw on accordion, and Rachabane’s daughter, Octavia (as well as two other’s who’s names escape me).

Walking into an empty Old Fruitmarket is an experience in itself; warped stone floors, authentic looking signage, and a purple tinged light selection all add to the atmosphere that the venue is going to be playing host to something magical this evening.

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It is also pretty cavernous, so I can’t help but wonder if Bwani Junction and co. are going to be able to fill it, but by the time the opener Moh! Kouyate takes the stage the place is pretty packed.

Kouyate’s brand of African music is sung in French and frantically digs out the grooves the same way Fela Kuti does: long, winding songs punctuated by fierce, jazzy guitar solos and underpinned by an unshakably brilliant rhythm section.

After this, I’m so impressed that I don’t envy the headliners for having to attempt to better Kouyate’s performance.

Bwani Junction then takes the stage and the air thickens with a collective sigh of anticipated nostalgia: many of tonight’s punters are here just because of Paul Simon (but they’ll almost certainly have left remembering Bwani Junction).

After introductions, Donald Shaw’s accordion riffs out the first track, ‘Boy In The Bubble’, and the sheer number of musicians on stage take Bwani’s sound through to a new dimension.

Every single track is a spectacle and to gaze around at other crowd members is to be met by total joy.

‘Diamonds On The Sole’s of Her Shoes’ is opened by an acapella refrain that showcases tonight’s backing singers and ‘You Can Call Me Al’ gives Morris Goldberg space to blast out his insanely perfect whistle solo.

As I mentioned before, every track is inch perfect, and I’d imagine everyone’s idea of a highlight is different (Goldberg and Rachabane’s saxophone back-and-forth was particularly badass), but one thing is certain and that’s how fucking commendable Bwani Junction’s commitment to the Graceland album has been.

When I first became interested in the band four or five years ago, Paul Simon’s name cropped up as an influence in a lot of the interviews, so as a witness to the evening’s events, it’s a great pleasure to offer my opinion that Bwani Junction performed an incredible ode to Simon, completely obliterating my expectations in the process and providing a night I will remember for a long time.

Words: Greg Murray
Photos: Andrew McColl

Pronto Mama, Bwani Junction, Redolent, Mark McGowan at St Lukes, 4/12/15

When it was first announced that Pronto Mama and Bwani Junction – arguably two of Scotland’s best live acts- were playing together, it was quickly predicted to be the “gig of the year”.

The highly anticipated line up is made complete by Redolent and singer-songwriter Mark McGowan.

Despite the size of the venue, and the considerably big turn out for the beginning of the night, Mark McGowan takes to the stage and instantly silences the crowd.

His intricate guitar playing compliments his voice as he flows through his first few songs.

With every song, the crowd edges closer to the front, with some even singing along- in his three-month career he has quickly established himself and tonight it is apparent he will leave with some new fans.

There is a definite curiosity to his songs, he draws you in with his inimitable way of telling the stories in his songs that you find yourself not being able to break away from.

Probably the song McGowan is best known for, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, is next as his set nears the end and it is filled with sweet ornaments throughout, and with McGowan’s distinctive voice, making it very easy to see why everyone loves it.
With his last song being, ‘Colour of Surrender’, he changes the song up, bring it down from a high to just a simple beat on the body of his guitar as he sings.

His set finishes to an eruption of applause from those lucky enough to see the first act.

Redolent are next, and they don’t hold back and are full of energy as they start their set.

Right away they take control of the stage, creating a new vibe that only gets more intense with each song.

With two bigger bands to follow they hold their set well with the venue filling up fast.

Definitely a band to watch, and a brilliant support slot.

Bwani Junction is known for having a solid fan base, so there’s no surprise in the sudden rise in numbers.

Tonight is a night to showcase some new songs rather than play their older stuff- a bit bittersweet for their fans, but for many this is their first time seeing this band.

The elaborate signature style of the bands playing has changed, the African influence is still there but the sound is stronger and the new songs go down well if the dancing is anything to go by.

Back in June they performed Paul Simon’s Graceland album in their hometown of Edinburgh, which was met with a massive acclaim, and tonight they treat us to their rendition of ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’.

The whole African feel is still evident, the bass is clear and sounds amazing; they’ve completely mastered this cover, making it their own and bring the atmosphere in the crowd up a level.

To finish they play a fan favourite ‘Two Bridges’, one that everybody knows so of course everyone is singing-along.

Amazing performance from Bwani Junction, the new material sounds very promising and looks like they are ready to make that next step.

As Bwani Junction leave the stage there is a noticeable shift in the crowd, those who were at the front take a step back, while everyone else pushes to get to the front for Pronto Mama.

The six-piece take to the stage, they’ve never played to this big a crowed before and quickly open up ‘Goose Steps’ and ‘Only Human’ from their second EP.

All members come to the front for the third song, ‘Sentiment’, a courageous acapella number that meets with an incredible applause.

It is unlike anything anyone has done today, as well as unlike anything that other bands are doing.

Their musical talents are undeniable, and the next song ‘Remission’ really shows that with prominence of the brass instruments.

They play another few songs including the newest, ‘Arabesque’, like Bwani Junction their new material is more than capable of outdoing the success of the previous stuff.

They end with ‘One Trick Pony’ from their debut EP, always a good one for the crowd to jump fanatically along to, and with the adrenaline at a new high the crowd chant for them to come back on for another song after they leave.

Their encore is a cover of Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’, and again for the second time this night, a band have outdone the original version with their own take on a cover.

Pronto Mama have had a great few years gaining a fan base, as well as tightening their sound and constantly progressing, but tonight is the best I’ve personally ever heard them- it doesn’t take a lot to see that they are entering the new year as a well established band with a lot about to happen for them.

Tonight surpasses all expectation, even though the expectations were very high; it’s early December, but it’s definitely one of the best gigs of 2015.

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Words: Olivia Campbell
Photos: Bill Gray

FCK YES with Bwani Junction, Ded Rabbit, Lewis Capaldi at Tut’s, 14/10/15

FCK YES is a new Glasgow based promotion group who have recently begun presenting a monthly gig with King Tut’s as the host, this evening the three acts being showcased are Bwani Junction, Ded Rabbit and Lewis Capaldi.

Capaldi sidles on stage to face a room where any substantial numbers are yet to warm the floorboards.

Armed with only an acoustic guitar, he rolls through a set of folky pop songs, seemingly unfazed by the lack of people paying attention.

Capaldi is the type of act whose bareness could be his downfall, as is the case with so many acoustic singer/songwriters, but he clearly has a knack for crafting music and his deep, gravelly voice is nothing short of impressive and spine chilling.

Ded Rabbit are second up, and the atmosphere becomes manic… Absolutely manic.

Blasting out the kind of up-tempo, simple indie that could have been featured on an episode of The Inbetweeners, the Edinburgh band career haphazardly through their set, giving quite the lesson on showmanship.

The most obvious one comes from frontman, Eugene, who seems to have mastered the art of being intensely weird and not giving a single fuck.

More than once he has sections of the now swollen crowd unsure if they should be nervously laughing or triumphantly joining hands with him to unite against the world’s forces of evil, and as he and his bandmates play on, he ramps it up further and further until he extravagantly drops his guitar from over his head and walks off the stage.

Came for the chirpy indie-rock, stayed for the brilliance in the performance.

As people mill around, waiting for Bwani Junction to get going, it seems like half the room has decided to make their way out, leaving a few nervous minutes of wondering whether they’ll come back to watch the indie quartet do their thing.

The seasoned group rip their teeth in anyway, and soon enough the space is full again, swaying to the tight lilts and grooves.

After the familiar ‘Civil War’ opener, ‘Snow’ shows strong song-writing chops, breezing around the well-known, African-inspired guitar of Dan Muir, whilst incorporating the more driven, anthemic sound of their newer work.

Based on the loneliness of cocaine, the instrumental jars against the sad subject matter and actually sounds pleasantly wintery, resonating homely vocal harmonies and the jangly-ness of great indie music.

Having recently experimented with a change of name by dropping the ‘Junction’ and becoming just BWANi, the group released a couple of new songs and played a handful of shows, but upon announcing that they’ve made the decision to re-introduce their old moniker, the shouts of joy from the audience confirms fan approval.

“Bwani, Bwani, Bwani fucking Junction” causes visible smiles on stage.

Having seen the band plenty of times before, I keep an eye on my friend next to me, interested to see what his first impression of the live band behind a record he’s very fond of (first album, Fully Cocked).

It’s mostly new songs which are showcased tonight and when a song called ‘War Cry’ is rattled out, I can imagine it becoming a fan favourite.

My friends face shows something close to awe as we watch, and once again, Muir’s guitar playing holds a special kind of attention – flying away in the corner, underpinned by the rest of the music, but transcending it at the same time.

As Rory Fairweather announces that they only have a few songs left, and that one of them will be ‘Two Bridges’, the audience become very excited and sing loudly along to the opening vocals.

It seems that the song is both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because so many people love it, and the innocent, spirited adventure it so effortlessly projects, and a curse because Bwani Junction are yet to write a new fan-favourite that can justifiably take its place at the end of the set – four years after its release.

In an attempt to phase into a new era, they lastly play new songs ‘Stay’ and (after the obligatory encore), ‘Make My Day’, with such vigour that I believe most of the room forget about ‘Two Bridges’ for a couple of minutes at least.

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Words: Greg Murray