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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sheer joy: Osibisa in Brockwell Park

Osibisa on the main stage at the 2013 Lambeth Country SHow, Brockwell Park, Brixton
Ay-ee-ko-b-i-a, oh my Lord!







Oh my God, another crazy nostalgia trip for old sod in Brockwell Park, as Osibisa play all their old favourites with such energy and joy that even the crowd of demob-happy GCSE-age school kids just can't help themsleves and start dancing to this music that - 40 years ago - introduced London to contemporary African pop and rock and jazz - a sort of North London version of Santana mixed with a bit of Sly, and this well before most of us had even heard of Fela Kuti.

Ok, I admit it. This blog - is it a blog really? - has been getting too damn moany of late, too grumpy old fool, all the usual targets of the post-midlife male sourpuss. But today I can only gush ridiculously, in a way that I haven't been able to do since at least last year's carnival.

I have a new reason, and it's just like all the old reasons to be cheerful, it really is like a throwback.

(And yes, I loved Ian Dury so much, and yet I only saw him once - at a free concert at Crystal Palace back in 1981, the royal wedding day. A free concert, you get me).

I have been so stingy all my life - but then I have managed to see and enjoy many, many great things, many great musicians and bands - without paying. Quite often thanks to Ken Livingstone or other elected London local government people.

So, today I had another reason to be cheerful for  the minimal outlay of a bottle of fizzy water. The Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park is one of the last big London events that still reminds me of those massive free GLC festivals of the 1980s. It's one of the last of those big public-sector events, and it has all the benefits and the drawbacks that such an event would have, in this age of cuts and health & safety and all the rest of things that make 2013 very unlike 1986.

All the more remarkable, then, that Lambeth has managed to keep this show on the road, and to keep it so good, so damn good, that they can bring on acts of such stature to play full-length sets. And if you don't get the value of an event paid for out of your Council Tax, just look around - everyone who wants to be here is here. No-one is here on a corporate freebie. There's no sponsorship, no VIPS, no 3m high steel fence. It's not SW4 or any other of those ghastly yuppie-fests on Clapham Common - thank Christ the Lord. 

This afternoon kicked off  with the Manasseh sound system, perfect warm-up for the Madness spin-off Ska orchestra of Lee Thompson, they wroked so hard and it eventually paid off, they had everyone moving by the end. And they were a fine support band for the big, big, legendary main act of the day.

Legendary? Osibisa? It's quite hard to remeber how big they veryu nearly were, back at the endof the 1960s, it could have been them - instead it was Bob marley and Fela Kuti who really broke through.

But even so Osibisa were big and they were a vital component at hat time, in that emergence of Afrobeat and funk and sould and reggae.Well, they are to me, because I remember my best friend at school urging me to listen to this LP, back in 1970 or so - African music, even before we had heard of Fela Kuti, despite the efforts of Ginger Baker.

And this afternoon, Osibisa were brilliant. The crowd was very mixed - the family show is a wonderfully diverse event, bringing dog-grooming, dressage and organic farming into close and intimate contact with a bit of dub step here, some grime over there, loads of wannabe gangster rappers  and maybe some traditional African dance there plus all the hippy-trippy stuff that Herne Hill can muster on a hot summer afternoon. Plenty, in other words.

Plenty of variety, most it boozed up and most already happy after the ska knees-up set from the Madness gang, all sweaty in their tight suits and pork-pies. All boozed and gassed up, all aftere their different things, all happily soaking up the sounds and the sun, which, with a sort of miracle-like retunr from retirement, shone for at least three-quarters of the afternoon.

Yes, today was bliss. I am still living it, and thank Osibisa, Lambeth, and everyone there for an unforgettable afternoon of music and dance.

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