Eska, Islington Assembly Rooms, gig review: The gymnastic flexibility of her voice really draws you in

Her falsetto is the thing that makes her really stand out

Emily Jupp
Tuesday 01 December 2015 13:05
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Eska Mtungwazi
Eska Mtungwazi

After years spent collaborating with other artists, Eska Mtungwazi finally stepped out of other people’s shadows this year when her desperately yearned-for solo debut album was finally released, picking up a Mercury nomination.

The singer-songwriter is clearly enjoying the confidence boost it’s given her, as she marches on stage in a red and black gown and starts rocking out to “Magic Woman”, her dreadlocks thrashing. She’s a flame emoji personified. She does a bombastic cover of “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” but there’s plenty of delicacy here too, in “To be Remembered” and “Shades of Blue” with its pretty twanging ukulele and folky hand claps.

Not worried about sharing the attention, mid-set she brings on Philip Achille, an extraordinarily gifted harmonica player, who can bring the delicacy and nuance of a full classical orchestra to that one instrument. Throughout this showcase, which flirts with electronica, pop, jazz, soul and folk, it’s the gymnastic flexibility of Eska’s voice that really draws you in.

She can do growling power and driving, joyful soul but her falsetto is the thing that makes her really stand out, it has a piercing strength that evokes some other invisible, joyful plane of existence and at tonight’s gig she helped her audience to access it too.

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