A night of African Music: John Haycock Quartet and Sens Sagna

Images and a few words from Alan Dearling

Before the musical dance mayhem of Sens Sagna and the Kajamor Family, the less raucous members of the audience were treated to the first ever public performance of the John Haycock Quartet.  This was 35 minutes of gorgeously intertwined playing from the truly beautiful kora player, John Haycock, with his friends, Dan on fiddle, John on African drum and Mark on acoustic guitar. Intense, hypnotic and mesmerising. It conjured up many of the spirits and vibes of the Malian legendary kora player, Toumani Diabaté. Video from a live show in 2008 in Seville: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DEKQjj6Ga0

John trained with Gambian griot and kora master Jali Kuyateh. John has been experimenting with both traditional playing on the 21 string African harp, running it through a series of electronic devices creating lush soundscapes and solid beats. Live, the Quartet produced some stunning and haunting instrumental magic. John explains that it is:  “…bridging the gap between ancient West African Folk melodies and modern electronica, visiting influences from hip-hop to ambient to dub along the way.” Video with Dan Bridgwood-Hill on fiddle:


An exquisite performance. I wonder if John and his fellows are going to give themselves a band name?

Headliners, Sens Sagna and the Kajamor Family don’t appear from info on their Facebook site, to perform full band sets very frequently. Consequently, there was a lot interest in advance and the publicity read:  “It’s set to be a busy night of fantastic, uplifting music.”

The reality was a lot louder, more dancey, enlivening. It was about the audience and the beats. It started off with Sens inviting the audience to enjoin with him and members of the Kajamor Family in a few minutes of musical fellowship. ‘A Blessing’. It felt like the beginning of an African ceremony – an initiation into some of the traditions and culture of Senegal.

Sens Sagna and the Kajamor Family World music Afro-beat African dance drums had arrived in the crammed, jumping Golden Lion in the Calderdale Valley of West Yorkshire, pre-loaded with the energetic beats and sounds of West Africa’s Senegal with just a bit of added reggae.

Preston Carnival outdoor stage: https://www.facebook.com/KajamorFamily/videos/2649065238567091

From his on-line site it says: “Sens Sagna – is regarded as an inspirational and experienced dancer, singer and teacher from the Cassamance region of Senegal, West Africa. He performs and teaches both choreographed and freestyle dance, drawing on the heritage of his tribe, the Jolla. He is also artistic director of the performance group Kajamor Family.”

To put this in a bit of context, Senegal’s music is best known abroad due to the popularity of mbalax, a development of traditional  music from different ethnic groups and sabar drumming popularized internationally by Youssou N’Dour. Here’s the video for the hit, ‘7 seconds’ featuring Nenah Cherry:


 In the 1970s, Orchestra Baobab began to popularise Senegalese dance music. I heard it referred to in London as ‘Hi-life music’. Xalam provided cross-over sounds from jazz and some elements of Cuban/Latino rhythms. Baaba Maal was at the forefront of a new generation of singer/guitarists from Senegal and he was one of the progenitors of the Afro-Celt Sound System.

Baaba Maal – Freak Out Ft. The Very Best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At6_yckUklU


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