5 stars out of 5
The Guardian, Friday 16 May 2014 15.29 BST
Bush Hall, London
This, I suspect, will be remembered as one of the classic concerts of the year. It was the first London appearance of the celebrated young classical harpist Catrin Finch, and Seckou Keita, the finest British-based exponent of the African harp, the kora. Their debut album, Clychau Dibon, appeared in a whole batch of last year's "best of" lists, mine included, and one might have expected that the duo had already been elevated to the concert circuit – especially after Seckou Keita's impressive solo performance opening for afro-pop singer Salif Keita at the Barbican last month.
The Bush Hall can be rowdy, but they were treated with the respect and total silence that their delicate and quietly thrilling performance deserved. They started, appropriately, with the first track on their album, Genedigaeth Koring-Bato, a thoughtful and elegant piece dedicated to the world's finest kora player, the Malian star Toumani Diabaté. Diabaté had begun to explore the links between kora and harp when he toured Wales with Catrin Finch two years ago, but the collaboration was short-lived, partly because of the political chaos in Mali at the time, and Seckou Keita took over.
On this showing, it's difficult to imagine greater empathy between two outstanding musicians from different cultures that proved to have so much in common. Their first set was made up of instrumental pieces that constantly switched between Welsh and west African influences as the two players traded solo lines, rhythmic backing riffs and flurries of rapid-fire improvisation. From the delicate and gently stately Les Bras De Mer to the strummed kora passages on the rhythmic Future Strings, their playing was quietly exquisite, emotional and inventive. Returning after a break, they showed how their style is still evolving, as they added Welsh and Mandinka vocals in a new lament about a village that was flooded to provide a reservoir. Magnificent.