Baaba Maal Prom, Royal Albert Hall, London

Astonishing spirit as Baaba Maal gets Albert Hall dancing
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The Independent Culture

Four numbers in, the first drummer arrived and the main man got up, swished his purple-patterned robe, and paced around, rhythms still laid-back but steadily gaining intensity. The voice, with its high range, cutting power and hints of nasal timbre, flowed in intricate, fluent cross-rhythms and duetted with the woman chorus singer. Half an hour in and the atmosphere was quiet, concentrated, but now charged.

And with the sixth number, lift-off began. Extra percussionists struck a groove, and the audience warmed up in response. Two long numbers got the dance movements going, and Baaba Maal tried a first big whirl, arms outstretched.

A fast call-and-response session peaked with him whizzing off stage, and suddenly there were12 drummers, covering the arrival of the full electric Daande Lenol band but pounding out the most riveting musical exchanges of the evening - all too short.

Baaba Maal was back in black and white stripes, and an hour of partying unfolded in the expected high-energy style. Alongside two maximum-octane dancers, the boss, fit in his fifties, jumped and leapt and crouched, and two minutes later was singing smoothly. Sax and trumpet wandered on, the rhythms turned Cuban, and the dancers did interesting things with six-foot pestles and mortars. Still there was vigour in store for two big finishes.

Unlike the Proms' attempt at a Cuban night a few years ago, the amplification stayed lucid, though the most compelling music was the lightest as Baaba Maal revisited his past and tuned in to the current West African liking for acoustic and traditional mixes. Hardly anyone knew the language and nobody thought to say what the songs were about, in case we hadn't been listening to the albums.

Astonishing spirit and atmosphere all the same, with the whole hall up doing exaggerated dancing as only the English can, and happily nobody fell out of a box.

None of the weekend's earlier Proms reached this exalted level. The Ulster Orchestra and Thierry Fischer earlier that evening brought excitement, brazenness and grandeur to Beethoven's Fifth, and more vigour than subtlety to Mendelssohn's score for A Midsummer Night's Dream. On Friday the Danish National Symphony Orchestra premiered a BBC-Danish commission, The Little Mermaid by Bent Sorensen.

Laid out beautifully for three girls' choirs - two in mid-arena - and restrained, teasing orchestra, it made an enchanting impact at first. But the narrow expressive range and pallid colours became monotonous, and Lars Vogt's expansive, high-romantic performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto, adorned with breathtaking exchanges between solo and orchestra, swept it aside.