Last Wednesday, for a mid-week gig, the Sudanese Asia Madani graced the Zigzag space with her charm and rhythmically hypnotic music.
Asia – based in Cairo, Egypt since 2000 – hails from a musical family, with a father that played the oud and a professional percussionist brother. Asia is both a vocalist and a percussionist herself with a solid grasp of Sudanese culture and musical traditions that she portrays in her music. She quickly built a name for herself in Egypt as one of the only musicians offering a well rounded representation of Sudanese music in Cairo and other cities. She was a participant in the 2016 edition of “The Nile Project” – a musical collective consisting of musicians from countries that the Nile runs through – where collaborations and workshops took place and culminated in recording and touring with the project as a live performance in Africa and Europe.
Despite being advertised as a 10pm start – we weren’t allowed into the venue when we first showed up at 10.10pm and were turned away by the bouncers and asked to come back at 11pm. The event was kicked off with a DJ set by Moose and Asia’s performance didn’t start until after 11.45pm. Asia’s band at Zigzag was a 10 piece set up – Keys, Guitar, Bass, Drums, 2 Percussionists, 3 Backing vocalists and Asia herself. The resulting sound was a resonating polyrhythmic wave that had many audience members dancing. The Zigzag venue space didn’t really do much justice to Asia’s performance – there is no clear or elevated stage and two bulky columns in the middle of the venue offer difficult sight lines for the audience. It does however offer a more cozy and intimate feel than a more traditional setting. This didn’t stop Asia from delivering a dynamic performance, with great interaction with the audience and confidence, nor the audience from having a good time.
Many of her songs featured typical call and response and call and repeat elements between her and her backing vocalists (usually singing in unison), cross rhythmical patterns on the drums and percussion as well as drum/percussion breaks. She started off her set with a couple of mellow, atmospheric pieces and then transitioned into more upbeat pieces that had the audience (and Asia herself) clapping, ululating and dancing. The band transitioned quite smoothly between songs – either going straight into the next track or having Asia say a couple of words to the audience or introducing the upcoming song – unfortunately the sound wasn’t very clear for her spoken segments and I was unable to get most of what she was saying.
Asia was also joined on stage by the Eritrean-Egyptian bassist Ahmed Omar who established and fronts the band and initiative – AFRICAIRO (look out for future features on The African Triangle). The attendees were of a significant number considering it was a week night and consisted of a mixture of expats (both Western and African) and a handful of locals.
Asia Madani is definitely one to look out for and I look forward to attending future performances by her – hopefully at venues with a better stage to audience relationship.
Asia Madani on Nogoum FM in 2015.
Basheer Lomi by Asia Madani live at ROOM Art Space – January 2015.
Watch Asia Madani’s full hour long performance at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Library of Alexandria) on the 3rd of August 2017.