Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Aceh Meukondroe, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Kettle
Indonesian eight-piece band Kande are like a force of nature. Using guitars, the crack and thump of four rapa’i frame drums and delirious vocals from frontman Rafly, their music – somewhere between qawwali on speed and raw early 1960s pop – fizzes with electricity, leaping off the stage with aggressive energy and threatening to burst the confines of the room.
It’s urgent, vital stuff, trance-inducing and incredibly powerful. They’re from the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra, which has seen its fair share of turmoil in recent years – it bore the brunt of the 2004 tsunami, and had already suffered several decades of separatist conflict.
But don’t expect mournful, resentful ballads: Kande’s songs are like an expression of riotous joy that it’s impossible not to feel caught up in. They sing of spirituality and the natural world, local fishermen, peace and the values of self-reliance (not for nothing does their show title – also their most recent CD – translate roughly as “Aceh: who if not us?”). And alongside Rafly’s ecstatic, frighteningly intense vocals, rising ever higher in his piercing tenor, it’s the exuberant backing vocals from the four seated drummers that bring things thrillingly alive, as they pound out hypnotic rhythms or play off each other in intricate ear-tweaking syncopations.
It feels a bit rough around the edges at times – sound levels take a song or two to get sorted out, and the inter-song chat is on the amateurish side, but when they’re in full flight, there’s little music on the Fringe that can match Kande for power, intensity and sheer, wild fun.
C (Venue 34), until 31 August, 7:30pm.
Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015
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