The London African Gospel Choir is a huge musical ensemble that reflects the diversity of the African and Caribbean diaspora. Tonight the choir is made up of six female and two male singers one of whom comes from Jamaica, the rest coming from different parts of Africa. They’re ably backed by a lively band comprising drums, percussion, bass, guitar and two keyboards players either side of the stage.
Tonight they begin the set by singing some of their own songs before playing the whole of Paul Simon’s 1986 “Graceland” album. It’s easy to forget the controversy this record provoked at the time, with Jerry Dammers, Paul Weller and Billy Bragg condemning the recording of the album when there was still a cultural boycott of South Africa, although Simon did work with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and was encouraged by Hugh Masekela.
There’s no denying it was a great album though, filled with the witty and emotional song writing that Paul Simon is known for. The members of the choir take it in turn to sing lead on different songs and really make them their own. There are impressive versions of all the songs with great harmonies and lead vocals from all involed. The whole set is extremely well received, “The Boy In The Bubble“, “Under African Skies“, “I Know, I Know” and “Crazy Love, Part II” all getting great reactions.
“Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” and the instantly recognisable intro to “You Can Call Me Al” also do down really well, the all age audience singing along and staying enthusiastically involved throughout the whole set.
They encore with an extended instrumental with the men in the choir showcasing their “gumboot” dance moves and a final African song that involves stomping away your troubles. The London African Gospel Choir have taken an album mired in controversy and transformed it into an uplifting and celebratory event.