Son De La Frontera & Mayra Andrade, Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

She last appeared in London supporting Angélique Kidjo at the Barbican in the autumn. Six months on and Mayra Andrade has been nominated for a Radio 3 Award for World Music and returned to the Barbican, this time heading a double bill with flamenco group Son de la Frontera. So it was ironic that this triumphant return was almost blown away by the passion of Son de la Frontera's opening set.

Guitarists Paco De Amparo and Raul Rodriguez, on the double-stringed Cuban tres guitar, flank the dancer Pepe Torres, hand percussionist Manuel Flore, and singer Moi de Moron.

The delicate tones of the tres spiral through flamenco's falsetas – the scales and arpeggios that are its equivalent to jazz riffs – and the precision playing between the two is as breathtaking as the complex rhythms they keep on the boil.

Vocalist Moi starts with an impassioned buleria. On "Solea de Pepe", the young dancer Torres returns to perform a blistering 10-minute dance that earns huge applause. Pure flamenco, muy macho.

When Mayra Andrade hits the spotlight, singing the irrepressibly upbeat opening song from her debut album, Navega, it's easy to forget that the fast-maturing singer is only 23, and has already become one of Cape Verde's brightest new stars. She was raised on the island of Santiago (as well as in West Africa and Europe), whose rhythms and song forms infuse her album, spiced by the wafting airs of Brazilian and African traditions.

Andrade has lived in Paris since 2003, and Navega featured a roster of leading musicians from the French capital including percussionist Ze Luis Nascimento, who is part of her regular live band, alongside guitarists Nelson Ferreira and Tarcisio Gondim and Ricardo Feijao on acoustic bass.

Whether it was the murky sound mix through the first few songs, or stiffness under the spotlight of expectation, it took Andrade a while to engage with where she was and how far she had come. You felt she was trying on her headlining role rather than properly owning it.

The African-tinged "Nha Sibitchi" did the trick and she went on to deliver an astonishing "Mana", a sweet Cape Verdean morna. From there, the lilting, acoustic music is filled with the same sensuous textures that make Navega so popular. Andrade's now in full flight, her voice developing an almost flamenco-like tear in its fabric. After "Navega", she returns to sing "Regasu" as if this were after hours in some Santiago bar.

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