Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Soundhouse @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on Mon 6 Jul 2015

Simply Soweto Encha –
Samba Sene and Diwan –

There is a festival vibe in the air at the Traverse this evening. Not only because both of tonight’s acts will be reprising their performances in the Fringe, but also because of the music – good-time grooves which make you wish you were clapping your hands and shaking your stuff in a sunny field, not in a basement bar on a rainy Monday in Edinburgh.

There’s nothing ‘support’-y about support act Simply Soweto Encha. These boys are headliners in their own right. A quintet of fine a capella vocalists, they mix a distinctive South African style with elements of doo-wop and straight-up soul and prove equally capable with the Jackson Five‘s Who’s Lovin’ You? as they are with their own material. Vocals are so tight and pure, it’s hard to tell whose is the lush bass that underpins their sound, until all is revealed when the said singer steps down off the stage to serenade a lady in the front row. A burst of ‘wim-o-weh, wim-o-weh’ causes a ripple of sniggers, until it transpires they are actually doing the whole of The Lion Sleeps Tonight; a little silly, maybe, but in SSE’s hands, a welcome favourite. Tonight dressed down in garish street wear rather than suited-and-booted, this is something of a warm-up for the After Freedom musical in August, when they’ll be dancing as well as singing, and as we reported about the snippet that was performed at the Just Festival launch, that looks to be something special.

The Trav’s sound has proved clear and crisp throughout Simply Soweto Encha’s set, but Senegalese singer Samba Sene and his band Diwan initially appear to be having issues. Cue puzzled gesturing to the soundman, and frantic scrambling with wires by the soundman and accomplice. Apart from a slight dip in vocals as Sene steps down off the stage to dance, it’s not immediately apparent to the audience what the issue is, but it certainly disrupts the flow of the set as the second number becomes an impromptu jam with improvised vocals. Billed as Afrobeat, there’s actually something very 80s about the whole band, and not just the saxophonist who is dressed like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (nothing wrong with that!) It gets a few out of their chairs and working their moves, but really this is music that needs a setting more conducive to that. The extended grooves become very samey. As a spectacle, attention easily drifts. As something to dance to in the summer sunshine, then you might be talking.

Simply Soweto Encha are performing in After Freedom @ Just Festival @ Central Hall from Fri 7 Aug 2015

Samba Sene and Diwan are @ Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, on Wed 12 Aug and Wed 19 Aug 2015