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Live / stage review

Finch & Keita, Abbeydale Picture House, 18 July

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Touring their second record together, SOAR, Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita and Welsh harpist Caitrin Finch descend upon the Abbeydale Picture House for a night of intertwining strings and cultural synthesis. Keita's kora, itself a type of West African harp, resembles and contrasts Finch's Western concert harp in equal measure.

At best, their distinct playing styles complement each other in a delightfully rhythmic, interlocking, cascading way. Finch's Celtic harp, characterised already by swing and triplet rhythms, is rendered more hypnotic and complex with the addition of Keita's lurching polyrhythms and blistering speed. Even when tuned in an equal-tempered, Western fashion, the sound of the kora is highly ethereal, with a distinctive airiness and a softly psychedelic, buzzing quality. Regularly, Keita contributes grinning, mellifluous vocals, creating a lullaby effect.

The project is ultimately most concerned with emphasising the similarities between world cultures

Occasionally, the music falls prey to the greatest threat to projects like this; the folk styles blend excessively, losing their distinct characters and beginning to resemble new-age, easy-listening mush. In one song, written about a flood in Wales, Finch confirms the new age link with whispered, mystical spoken word ("There's a story Don't forget"), teetering on the line between endearingly earnest and plain corny. Whichever side you fall, it's not the spellbinding experience it was likely conceived as.

The project is ultimately most concerned with emphasising the similarities between world cultures, even while celebrating their differences. The most geographically divided musical traditions can produce endless unlikely convergences, down to the types of instruments used. Perhaps there is an immutable empathic connection at the core of all people, wherever millennia of migration land them.

The motif of the osprey, colonies of which have been found to migrate from Wales to Senegal, makes it clearer - the show stands resolutely for immigration, as attitudes and policy around it regress ever further.

Andrew Trayford

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