In a world where the appeal of music often hinges on commercialisation and trends, the words of Yussef Dayes continue to resonate. A statement of his from a candid interview a few years ago remains in my mind: “You can’t buy groove – it’s who you are.” As I found myself immersed in the soulful atmosphere of his recent stop at Cardiff’s Tramshed, promoted by Clwb Ifor Bach, I couldn’t help but reflect on the truth of that statement.
Watching him perform songs from his latest album Black Classical Music, it becomes apparent that groove isn’t something that can be bought or manufactured. It’s a visceral expression of one’s soul, and Dayes embodies this truth in every electrifying note and rhythm. The intricate dance of the sticks and drums; the rhythmic pulse that flows through every beat; the sweat-inducing challenge of maintaining the groove… but enough about this reviewer’s memories of rocking the virtual drumkit on Band Hero in the heyday of rhythm gaming, because Dayes’ mastery of his craft becomes evident when you witness him in action, an artist who has honed his skills to a level of perfection.
As he takes the stage, a hushed anticipation fills the room, and then, with quiet confidence, he begins to play. His eyes gently closed, Dayes’ connection with the music transcends the visual; it’s as if he was channelling the very essence of rhythm from within. Those closed eyes became a metaphorical gateway to a world where sound, rhythm, and soul converge, leaving the audience entranced.
While Dayes is, unquestionably, a phenomenal performer, the transcendence of the concert experience involved an ensemble of artists hailing from various cultures and corners of the globe who elevated the sound to impressive heights. As Dayes proclaimed during the gig, “You have to have the drum and bass on lock” – and this rang resoundingly true thanks to Cardiff native Rocco Palladino, whose effortless bass playing served as a bedrock for the entire performance. Venna’s ethereal saxophone melodies captivated the audience further, and South Carolina’s Elijah Fox, masterful on the keys, wove intricate harmonies and melodies while percussionist Alex Bourt maintained the rhythmic flow.
Adding to the evening was a guest appearance by Nairobi-based guitarist Ivy Alexander, whose strings oozed sheer joy and neo-soul, it was a collaboration that seamlessly blended cultures and genres, leaving an indelible mark on the audience. Yussef Dayes is a must-see live.
Yussef Dayes, Tramshed, Cardiff, Wed 4 Oct
words JOHN EVANS photos NADINE BALLANTYNE