Once upon a time, some bright spark took a drink made by infusing leaves and boiling water, called tea, and said “Let’s add some cow juice and see what it tastes like”. They probably got a few strange looks. Just over a decade ago, a couple of folk musicians travelled to the rain forests of West Africa, hung out with some pygmies, played tunes together and then decided to begin a performing collaboration. As a concept, it might seem a bit like trying to have a cheese salad with chalk dressing.
Crazy notion it may be, but listening to Baka Beyond recordings it’s tough to not tap your feet or be taken away to good places when they want you to. They’re a more than pleasant listen. As a live experience, it’s not so much about tapping your feet as throwing your arms wildly in the air, giving your body a rhythmical workout and creating vocal nonsense in a vain attempt to match the effortlessly skilled performers on stage. Keeping still is only an option for the dead, or those too mesmerised by the sheer joy of it all. (Or even those captivated by the sexiest singer/dancer he’s seen in quite a while, but less said about that the better). Besides, as the seven-strong frontline of this eight-piece all leap about and strut their collective stuff, it’s recommended to take the occasional breather and enjoy the performance. The Spirit Of The Forest and The Man Who Danced Too Slowly are well-drilled classics, but new material hit the spot too (especially the extreme Afro-folk-funk of Boulez Boulez) as those in the know at Cargo danced it up till thrown out. In short, a band famed for its high levels of energy and passion played a blinder.
Over the years, Martin Cradick and Su Hart have assembled a group of authenticity and talent so perfectly gelled that all notions of bizarre musical hybrids are soon forgotten. That this unlikeliest of enterprises did, and still does, succeed and inspire many others is seemingly no surprise to them. Their whole project is so more than just a musical band and they can rightly see themselves as pioneers should they choose to. Tonight though, they seemed more intent on just having fun.