N&N Festival, Las Maravillas de Mali review: The soul of Afro-Cuban music comes to Norwich

Las Maravillas de Mali. Picture: Richard Holstein

Las Maravillas de Mali. Picture: Richard Holstein - Credit: Archant

It can be hard to convince people to leave the safety of their sofas and head out on Sunday night but Las Maravillas de Mali did just that and more as they helped the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2019 complete its opening weekend in style.

Formed in the 1960s, Las Maravillas de Mali effortlessly mix traditional Cuban rhythms with Malian sounds.

Credited with defining the term 'world music' the band's appearance at Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday, May 12 was the group's first in the UK.

Opening with a set from Munto Valdo, a harmonica player and jazz guitarist from Cameroon who, with the help of some pedals, an impressive vocal range and a playful attitude got the evening's performance off to a strong start.

Setting the tone for an evening of audience participation, foot tapping, clapping and singing.


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Munto Valdo filled the auditorium with his rich vocals and skill full guitar playing, which included percussive beats, funky chords and delicate finger picking.

Introduced onto the stage with a brief video explaining the band's history, as soon as they came onto the stage, Las Maravillas de Mali, led by one of the group's original members, founder Boncani Maiga, filled the auditorium with Afro-Cuban rhythms and tunes.

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An ensemble of talented musicians, who you just knew were having a great time, special mention must go to the lead vocalists, Mory Kante Valero, Florent Alapini Atoyebi (Jospinto) and Mr Maigi who carried the band and bought the music alive. As well as David Bencomo Guedes on the flute, whose exceptional playing even when his instrument was dismantled was second to none.

Creating a great night of music which transported the audience to the side streets and bars of Havana, Las Maravillas de Mali were fully deserving of the standing ovation they received at the end of their performance.

If only the choice of venue on the part of festival organisers had allowed people to fully let loose and dance to the music the band were creating, it was after all music which was designed to be danced to.

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