Vula Viel (Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall (Images copyright Monika S. Jakubowska 2018, Descriptive captions by AJ Dehany) A joyous late show celebrating of the fourth anniversary of Vula Viel, the group name meaning ‘Good is Good’ in the Dagaare language of Upper West Ghana, where Bex Burch studied and worked for three years. A return to the Elgar Room where Vula Viel played one of its earliest gigs in the Proms Lates series.
Intensely rhythmic, with overlapping and often multiple time signatures, driven by the buoyant tonality of the Gyil, the large pentatonic xylophone made of lliga wood.
Jim Hart (foreground)
Celebrating the strength, power and dignity of Ghanean funeral music, whose forms and rhythms embrace both rules and chaos…
… and debuting their next album Do Not Be Afraid, the group obeys a rigorous discipline of mind-expanding ‘minimalism as maximalism’.
Tracks: I Learn: “The bigger picture always eludes me but sometimes if I focus on the smaller picture I get glimpses…” Inside Mirror: “Your inside mirror unworthily reflects the real you – nobody really sees how great they are.” Embracing and unifying continents of experience, Never Ending Prayer was written in Swaledale, asking “Will you stay with me when I go? The resounding answer was not just “We will” but “We are”. “Difference has dignity”: the tender ballad I Love You is written for someone far away, separated by continents and languages, intensely missed but close at heart.
Bex Burch bounces across the bars of the Gyil with irresististibly watchable vigour and energy.
Jim Hart on drums doubles the rhythmic impact while responding, syncopating and driving the pulse.
Ruth Goller’s driving electric bass anchors the shifting rhythmic identity of the group with heavy riffs and doublestops.
Gwyneth Herbert brings lightness and natural grace to the easy melodic lilt of the songs and evocative lyrics in English and Dagaare.
Encore Yeh Yeh Keh-ruh, a traditional Dagaare non-funereal recreational piece: men are flirting with the women and the woman are saying “You’ll have to try a lot harder…”