Samba Sene performs a set mixing African styles with his velvety vocals, managing to get the whole audience on their feet. Although lacking in some of the vitality of other African bands, the music is enjoyable and danceable nonetheless.
The set begins very downbeat, with two emotional and slow numbers. These are completely different from the rest of the show and seem odd openers. However, they are beautifully executed: very simple pieces with Sene on guitar and vocals, accompanied by electric guitar and drums. Sene’s guitar technique is melodic and simple, though peppered with the occasional bar chords failing to articulate. It is his vocals which make these songs effortless and expressive.
After these slow openers, which allowed the bar to fill up, Sene was joined by three more musicians on bass, drum kit and saxophone. The saxophonist particularly stood out, with some fantastic solos throughout. As soon as they joined the line-up, the music picked up, with Sene beginning to move around the stage. Hints of high-life, calypso and reggae could be heard in the different songs, mixing up the tempos and the rhythms. Each song is quite lengthy, which seemed to suit the crowd well last night as everyone was up and dancing, giving few gaps in the flow.
Sene was also a great dancer, often coming in to the audience and dancing with them. However, these moments were the only times when he really seemed to connect with the audience. As he has his eyes closed for most of the performance, it was quite intimate but not very personable, and his explanations between songs were mumbled and unintelligible. The music itself was so infectious and it is a shame that its vibrancy never seemed to be expressed in the body language of Sene or any of his band members.