Afrocubism graced the stage at Harpa on June 28 to a packed theatre, and musically did not disappoint. Unfortunately, when it comes to concerts, the music is only part of the battle.
To the audience’s dismay, the show started half an hour late (due to flight issues) and when they finally did get started Eliades Ochoa’s guitar seemed out of tune (or he was playing out of key, which doesn’t seem feasible as he’s a world class guitarist who once played for Buena Vista Social Club). This did not make for such a great start to such a reputable band’s show. Another issue was the fact that the music was a bit static. There were no variations in tempo or sound, and it started to become a bit predictable and, at some points, even boring.
This isn’t to say that the show didn’t have its awe-inspiring moments. Watching the members of Afrocubism take their diverse, culturally separate sounds and meld them together to make music so earthen that we might as well have been sitting in a rainforest being washed over by the sounds of nature—that was a treat. It was much like standing over the shoulder of a master watchmaker, watching him put together the gears and trinkets that make a clockwork. Not to mention that at the end, during the encore, Toumani asked the crowd to dance, and anyone over the age of 35 delivered.
If it weren’t for the lack of diversity in their set and the late start, Afrocubism’s show would have been a world-class one. Instead it came across as a mixed bag: disappointing due to the tardiness and the stagnancy of the music, but wonderful for the inner workings of such a musically talented band. The experience still led me to assume that their skill and sound are better appreciated on a studio recording than a live show.