Bamba, Copts, RNCM; Rafiki Jazz Creates An Evening of Unmissable Memories

It was 15th November, Friday, 1.30 pm. We were heading to Manchester RNCM; The Royal Northern College of Music. The gig was at 7.30 pm. That day we were missing Mina. The set list was slightly different comparing with other gigs so to accommodate Mina’s absence. He flew to Abu Dhabi the day before to play with the London Coptic Orchestra. Copts date back to approximately 48AD when Christianity is believed to have been brought to Egypt by St Mark the Evangelist.

There are 30 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in the World, 23-25 million of them are found in Egypt under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, and then a tight community of Copts in Doncaster and London. Mina is from Egypt and living in Doncaster. I say wouvza my dear readers!

So for this gig, Mina’s Coptic medley Tasbih was removed temporarily from the setlist and Bamba is added instead.

Bamba was written by Kadialy Kouyate. Kadialy in Senegalese means Gazelle, a deer. Perfect fit to Kadialy’s appearance and character, a delicately strong deer. This song is a praise to Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba. He is not one of those people in my world movers dictionary either, but he is for the Senegalese and for millions of his Sufi followers.

Vijay Venkat and Cath Carr, rehearsal

Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba is considered one of the greatest spiritual leaders in Senegalese history and of the biggest influences on contemporary Senegalese life and culture. He is the founder of Mouridism: its teachings emphasize the virtues of pacifism, hard work and good manners through what is commonly known as Jihādu nafs; a personal struggle over “negative instincts”.

In the political sphere, Ahmadou Bamba led a pacifist struggle against French colonialism while trying to restore a purer practice of Islam insulated from French colonial influence. In a period when successful armed resistance was impossible, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba led a spiritual struggle against colonial culture and politics, eventually living in exile in Gabon (1895–1902) and later in Mauritania (1903–1907)

He is also known to have invented Café Touba; traditionally mixed coffee and spices for medicinal purposes, and to have served it to his followers.

Lend me your ears then.. here we go…For the first couple of minutes of the song in the video, Kadialy greets us with his Kora, which is followed in their styles by the one and only Avital Raz and Sarah Yaseen as they drop in their incomparable vocals.  Get ready for the journey to Bamba world!

We are grateful for the band leader & agent Tony of Konimusic to close deals with these amazing places that we tour to. It is a big deal to play at the RNCM

Why? The history, the concert hall, the size and everything else comes with it.

The RNCM has a rich history, dating back to the late 19th century and the establishment of the Royal Manchester College of Music (RMCM). Less than four decades later, in 1920, the Northern School of Music was established & a Joint Committee was formed to oversee plans to combine the two colleges. The RNCM was formed in 1972, moving to its purpose-built home on Oxford Road in 1973. The college building was built between 1968 and 1973 by architects Bickerdike, Allen, Rich.

This is when I couldn’t believe my eyes! The RNCM currently has 770 students and 320 teaching staff, the majority of whom are part-time, but still, wouldn’t you?

The concert hall: the octagon concert space has a gigantic Hradetzky Four Manual Concert Organ. I mean, it is huge, mahoosive and covers the whole back wall. It was so tempting to get close and press a key or two to hear the growling of the beast, feel the satisfaction of making the room “roar”. If only I weren’t the tour manager!  

Dear me..more..!

The space has 2 massive dressing rooms with built-in showers. I can’t talk about both but one of them was so amazing. How do I know? I had to use the shower. Did you know the heating for the RNCM is controlled not even from a building in Manchester, but somewhere else, maybe Birmingham. I was boiling under my tiger-striped woolly jumper.

I should change the subject:

We had two special happenings on the night. One, Sarah’s newly wed brother and his wife were in the audience and as a surprise or wedding present Sarah sang them a Punjabi wedding song, accompanied by Vijay on the bansuri flute & John on tabla. The other one is Avital’s parents were with us all the way from Jerusalem. It was unfortunate that Avital’s tanpura had an accident and had to be sent for repair. The sound of our drone is made by tanpura and played by Avital during the meditative and mesmerizing You Are Light song & more. It would have been amazing to give her parents everything we can. Still, I can easily say it was one of the highlights of the tour.

Before I say “see you next time”, I have one more point to make: have you noticed Tony’s bass guitar? It is solid hardwood in the middle. That unmissable, fat, growly, deep-throated tone, is a more hi-fi sound. It is a Warwick fretless bass, and they are famous for the wood they use and the type of open-air drying process that takes at least three to ten years. Even though its trademark heavy and uneven weight might have been an issue, Tony cleverly sorted it out by sticking a chunky metal extension on the other end to counterbalance the weight of that thing of glory. I wonder if you could spot where he mounted that metal stick on his 5 string Warwick?

Now then, look after your souls and dancing shoes. You might need them for next time!