Friday, June 14, 2013

Bill Dickens and the Ladysmith Chicago Gospel Experience Band Rock Fes Festival

Ladysmith Chicago Gospel Experience - South Africa – USA 
Leanne Faine & Favor – Chicago – USA
Ladysmith Red Lions – Ladysmith – South Africa
Butterscotch – beatbox
Bill Dickens and the Ladysmith Chicago Gospel Experience Band

This exceptional project is directed by bassist Bill ‘The Buddha’ Dickens, one of the legends of Black American music, and conceived by artistic producers Mohamed Beldjoudi and Larry Skoller. It is an exciting encounter between one of the great voices of Gospel in Chicago, Leanne Faine and her Favor Ensemble with the Ladysmith Red Lions, a Gospel group from the town of the same name in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

An exceptional appearance by Butterscotch, a young Californian expert on the beatbox, will make this evening one of the great events of this year’s Festival.

This show once again demonstrates how Gospel music can transform the sufferings of the past and overcome daily difficulties, our own just as well as those of the African slaves of old who considered themselves like the Hebrew captives in Egypt.

The path was long and hard from the cotton fields of the South to the re-election of President Obama in 2012, just like that from apartheid to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa on 27 April 1994.

Gospel music started out as work songs or shouts, poetic declamations by African slaves that gave a hint in the 18th century of what the negro spiritual would become. Today it forms the backbone of all black American music from jazz to soul, from R&B to funk. In the heart of Chicago, home of the blues, many churches are home to artists of exceptional talent such as Leanne Faine. She is an energetic and ecstatic Gospel diva who has sung with both the Reverend James Cleveland and Shirley Caesar.

Leanne Faine in full flight

Thus the encounter between Leanne Faine and Favor with the Ladysmith Red Lions from the town of Ladysmith will prove that the African soul has been able to conserve its warmth and its faith, despite today's violence in ghetto-like city areas and despite the ever-present memory of captivity and exclusion. Or, as Zeyba Rahman told the audience.... “It’s going to be a fascinating programme tonight because the Ladysmith Red Lions walk softly while Leanne Faine and Favor have real punch.

The Concert

The forest of mike stands on stage was the first sign this was going to be one helluva show. Parents figured it’d be fun so brought their kids, pacifying them with chocolate and sandwiches waiting for show to begin.

The night opened with South African acapella singers, Ladysmith Red Lions, who jogged onto the stage in red and yellow shirts, black trousers, red socks and brilliant white sneakers. Their voices were like molasses, smooth, dark and sweet. The harmony was a soothing sound, like being wrapped in an aural hug - the sound of effortless harmonies and a series of relaxed but perfectly coordinated moves. Aside from the lead who did his own thing, the rest of the group appeared to be operated by a very skilled band of puppeteers as they waved, swayed and turned in unison. One number had them each holding a stick about a meter long vertically by base, thrusting it upwards, while the lead took matters further picking up a huge mike stand and wielding like a weapon.

While the lyrics might have been wonderful, for those of us who couldn’t understand them it mattered not a jot. One number consisted entirely of the singers making crisp percussive ‘um’ sounds, nothing more being needed with voices like these.

Concerts like this threaten to put musicians out of business with next act being Butterscotch, an extraordinary beatbox artist with devilish eyebrows who you’d swear has an orchestra in her mouth. She recorded live sound sequences by operating foot pedals and mixed them on stage, layering them into a version of Joshua fought the battle of Jericho that was both moving and eerie.


Her talent shone brightest when performing alone or with the Red Lions but her sound was drowned somewhat when the musicians – bongo, drums, guitar, keyboard - joined in. Let’s not forget the extended range bass played by the legendary Bill Dickens (see photo below).

The instrument which he held high on his chest looked like something a cartoon super hero might fly around on, all white fins and curves. When the musicians started up in succession what they built was fabulous, thumping – and loud.

Leanne Faine and Favor

Nobody was going anywhere but more performers kept arriving. Next white clad Leanne Faine and her singers, Favor, seamlessly joined Ladysmith until song’s end when the South Africans left for a while. Now the night was all about gospel, and Lordy, it was good.

It was all about gospel - and Lordy, it was good! 

The gospel gang were having a blast and so was the audience. Faine's early attempts to get people clapping or waving met with little cooperation but before long everyone got into the spirit. Their infectious rhythms had people dancing both between the seats and in aisles.

All that fun was hard work with much face mopping in between high fives. At one point Leanne Faine climbed down from the stage and kept singing as she mingled with the audience, a sure fire way to get people involved.

By the final number ‘Oh Happy Day’ she had the entire audience, regardless of religion, singing, clapping and praising gospel music. Oh happy day indeed.

Text: Stephanie Clifford-Smith
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke, Vanessa Bonnin

Coming up at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Saturday June 15th
Batha Museum 4pm
Lo Còr de la Plana - France
From the Plaine quartier of Marseille, Lo Còr de la Plana reinvents the songs of the south, combining the ancient sounds of a Mediterranean both violent and sacred.

Bab Al Makina 9pm
Patti Smith - USA

Festival in the City 
Boujloud 10.30
Karim Ziad followed by the legendary Hamid Kasri

Sufi Nights at Dar Tazi
Saturday june the 15th : Tariqa Ouazzania 11pm

The Weather - Sunday will be a hot 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) during the day and down to 16C (60.8 F) at night. 
Sunday will be hot with 34C (93.2 F) with night temperatures of 16C (60.8 F). Drink plenty of water! 

Fes Festival Fringe program
Fes Festival Medina Map
Fes Festival Food! 
Fes Festival Site

The View from Fez is an official media partner of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Print Friendly and PDF

No comments: