Celtic Connections

Orchestra Baobab & Carmen Souza

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Rob Adams

four stars

CELTIC Connections bathed in sunshine, aurally speaking, as the guests on this double bill brought music from warmer climes, both their own and others from which they draw inspiration.

Portuguese singer, guitarist and pianist Carmen Souza’s trio began in Brazil with Milton Nascimento’s Ponta de Areia and quickly established that their approach would be one of laid-back persuasion and quiet mastery. While Souza sang and scatted in voices that ranged from the childlike to the deeply sexy, her superb bassist, Theo Pascal and marvellously relaxed but alert drummer, Elias Kacomanolis often insinuated as much as stated the groove.

Souza likes to involve her audience, whether with stories – such as the one that preceded her song dedicated to an aunt who lived to be one hundred and five – or by cajoling them to sing and dance, and by the end she had almost everyone on their feet, swaying to Kacomanolis’ native Mozambique beat and chanting about the paradise that is Africa.

Orchestra Baobab would probably be more specific about this paradise and tell you that it’s Senegal. Although they opened in a solemn mood, paying tribute to one of the long-running band’s original vocalists, Ndiouga Dieng, who died in November, the ten musicians onstage were soon soundtracking a party.

There’s a rough rule of thumb with their music: if it’s congas and timbales-led, it’s imbued with their founding Cuban influence. And if Mountaga Koite switches to the kit, it’s freer of spirit and emphatically made in Dakar, with tenor saxophonist Issa Cissokho cutting an exuberant, brightly clad figure as fiery honking soloist and celebrant-in-chief. Great fun.