Rock & Pop: Hip-hopped on classics

Melky Sedeck Subterania, London Rufus Wainwright Embassy, London

Melky Sedeck has to be one of the worst names ever for a pop duo, mainly because it doesn't sound like the name of a duo at all: everyone I've mentioned it to has responded, "Who's he?" Another failure of the sobriquet is that it conceals the highly marketable information that Blandinna "Melky" Jean and Farel "Sedeck" Jean are the younger sister and brother of Wyclef Jean, empire-building leader of the Fugees (which makes another Fugee, Pras Michel, their cousin). Music is in the Jeans' genes.

Melky Sedeck's sexy debut album, Sister & Brother, is more than worthy of the Fugee camp. It applies hip-hop beats and attitudes to the organic arrangements and gutsy, melodic vocals of Sixties soul and Seventies funk. And Melky Sedeck (it's getting irritating already, isn't it?) boast a few tricks of their own, most notably their taste for classical music. Sister & Brother is built on symphonic samples, Melky's operatic vocals and the piano cadenzas of Sedeck, who plays almost all the instruments on the album. Any sensible A&R man should already have signed up any stray Jean siblings or, failing that, household pets.

It's ironic that the Jeans are now black American music's first family, for Melky Sedeck's parents wouldn't let them listen to any music that wasn't religious. Blandinna, Farel and Wyclef are the daughter and sons of a preacher man, and a puritanically strict one at that. He and his wife have yet to hear any of their children's records or to watch any of their shows.

It's probably for the best. I doubt the reverend Jean would applaud the insouciant way Melky flings off her silver raincoat and unzips her leather waistcoat to reveal a nautically-themed Lycra catsuit which Wonder Woman would have rejected as being rather garish. Melky's next outfit consists of hot-pants, boots and a leather jacket. And that's all within the first 25 minutes of the show.

I don't suppose the elder Jeans would consider it much consolation, but the influence of the Church on Melky Sedeck is still apparent. Their namesake, Melchizedeck, was an Old Testament prophet, and Melky, like any gospel singer worth her pillar of salt, is dramatic, impassioned and a few miles over the top. It's just that instead of being possessed by the spirit of the Lord, she's possessed by ... well, whatever it is, it makes her shake her scarier-than-Scary-Spice mane, jog on the spot, toss roses to the audience and swing her hips with such vigour that she's lucky her buttocks don't fly off. As her voice leaps from a low, soulful growl to a piercing vibrato, you're tempted to have another peek at the family tree to check if Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner or Shirley Bassey are in there somewhere.

Compared to Melky, her big brother is the shy, retiring type. Compared to anyone else, he isn't. While the duo's DJ, J Scratch, provides the rhythms, Sedeck, in an enormous red bodywarmer that could be the Michelin man's life-jacket, is on his knees playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or a flurry of flamenco guitar.

Melky Sedeck bundle everything they have in the mix, which puts their gig ahead of almost every other hip-hop-associated show. The approach isn't always to the benefit of their music, though. Between J Scratch's fussy beats, Sedeck's insistent piano flourishes and Melky's gale-force vocals, the relentless showing off made me feel as if I were gawping at a juggling display rather than appreciating a concert. They should use their talents more sparingly. They can afford to, when they have so much talent to spare.

Rufus Wainwright is from a musical dynasty, too, but he has more parental approval. His dad helped him get a record contract, and his mum played the piano for him on one song on Tuesday. She is the folk singer Kate McGarrigle. Her ex-husband, Rufus's dad, is Loudon Wainwright III. And the couple's daughter, Martha, is in the family firm, too - she sings backing vocals on her brother's album.

This pop pedigree is not all the 25-year-old has in common with Melky Sedeck. Like theirs, his work is informed by his classical training and his love of opera and other musical theatre. Last year's debut album, Rufus Wainwright, is a collection of piano-based songs - tear-stained torch ballads and rambunctious vaudeville romps - which are influenced more by Randy Newman, Irving Berlin and Verdi than by any of Wainwright's peers (or his parents). If he sounds like any of his contemporaries, it is Radiohead's Thom Yorke: his voice can be bleak, bleary and world-weary while soaring like an angel's.

Wainwright's name will be one to watch for decades to come, although I shouldn't recommend watching him too closely at the moment. There were many beautiful notes on Tuesday, but not many beautiful sequences of notes. Without the album's jaunty band and Van Dyke Parks's shimmering string arrangements, most of the songs were suicidally ponderous dirges. Even Wainwright himself, who was as camp and twinkly as a glitterball between songs, was drained of pizzazz the instant he touched the grand piano, or worse, picked up his acoustic guitar. This was the last date of a year- long tour. It sounded as if it had ground, very slowly, to a halt.

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'