First Night: Toumani Diabaté/Cheikh Lo, Lighthouse, Poole

Stunning night of world music and dancing
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The Independent Culture

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of world music label World Circuit, two of its premier African acts have joined forces for a mouth-watering UK tour, beginning tonight at Poole's arts centre.

For many followers of Toumani Diabate, his album Boulevard De L'Independence with the Symmetric Orchestra was a full-blooded revelation. Better known for his more sedate kora (west African harp/lute) moments with the likes of Ballaké Sissoko, Taj Mahal, and Ali Farka Toure (most notably on their Grammy-winning album, In The Heart of the Moon), his latest project is an energetic dance-flavoured mix of traditional Malian joie de vivre and Westernised funk grooves.

The Symmetric Orchestra is effectively the Friday night house band of Bamako's Hogon club. And what a big club it must be because there are 14 people on stage at various points in tonight's show.

However, Senegalese superstar Cheikh Lo and his seven-piece group take to the stage first. They launch into "Sou" and "Kelle Magni" from his ambitious new album Lamp Fall. Lo's blend of blues, funk, soul, and Latin-flavoured rhythms engage the crowd, prompting a few women to do the "walk-to-the-dancefloor-dance" between the aisles.

Diabate's band quickly establish themselves as an awesome live unit: as tight as a drum, rhythmically punchy and visually impressive ; Diabate hobbling onto the stage with a stick, dressed in his long, flowing chocolate robes.

The set is predominantly taken from the album Boulevard De L'independence although "Kaira" from In The Heart of the Moon is a worthy tribute to work of the great Ali Farka Toure.

Diabate dominates the proceedings. Even his over-enthusiastic drummer can't overshadow the man's remarkable talent, even if he doesn't hog the limelight.

This is a stunning show that deserves to be filling out venues wherever it goes in the UK. Unfortunately the Lighthouse is less than full, but the audience's vociferous response to both the Symmetric Orchestra and Cheikh Lo, must have more than made up for it for the musicians.