Culcha Candela – A Multi Culti ‘Tour de Force’ brought their energetic show to Bonn Kunst!Rasen recently. 3Songs Hip-Hop Correspondent ‘JJ’ (Jiving John) Harrison hip-hopped down to the show. Apparently it was ‘Bad’ – which means it was Good. One might say ‘Hammer’ even (possibly)…
What started as a walk in the park, became much more as the evening progressed. Around six o’clock the heavens opened and it just poured down for the next half an hour. Over optimistically attired one would have been for the month of April, granted, but not unreasonably dressed for an otherwise sunny July afternoon. It was, after all, though an open air music venue here on the “Kunst!Rasen” adjacent to Father Rhine and under the shadow of the imposing Post Tower. So was the metal-tented predecessor on the gravelled square between the museums, with its almost Arabian flair. So well was it conceived that one breathed “open air”, but one was spoiled by having to make no concessions whatsoever to jackets, umbrellas, head gear, or any other fashion accessories. So well sheltered were literally thousands underneath its copious yet, for those below. inconspicuous roof. Tonight’s downpour, and the intermittent showers afterwards, did, however confer the al fresco venue with a typical north European music festival atmosphere as umbrellas opened like a sea of coloured mushrooms and all manner of plastic bin bag-style Macs in all colours of the rainbow, though predominantly in blue and yellow, and in all possible configurations, suddenly graced the field.
When the large black front stage curtain bearing the band’s fiery globe logo finally dropped at 20:12 hours, six young gentlemen in red jackets, white shirts and black trousers literally jumped into action on the stage, dancing up and down and singing the catchy chorus in English, “Move it,“ and the verses in German, as the show got on the road at breakneck pace, with one of Culcha Candela’s more famous ear worms. The central curtain also dropped revealing the three tiered stage, where band member DJ Chino took up his post for most of the remainder of the evening in front of a large black table which appeared to contain a laptop and a couple of turntables. This was the control centre of the band and presumably the source of the evening’s music. This was a case, not of “what you see is what you get“ , but “what you are hearing does not quite equate with what you see“. DJ Chino played a lot of air drums and some occasional air guitar but the emphasis for the evening was most definitely on the vocals and the dancing. Interestingly though, as with the recent Bob Dylan concert, the big screen on the left hand of the stage was not in use, so vision this evening, especially for those at the back, was somewhat impaired.
One of the “Culcha Candela“ trademarks is to take out white tea towel like cloths and wave them helicopter style over their heads in the manner of a Finnish sauna attendant, whilst encouraging the audience to join in with any scarves, jackets or large handkerchiefs which they happen to have to hand. Surprisingly, this works, and the level of audience participation is awesome as everyone joins in with the spirit of things. I feared for a moment the uplift would cause the Kunst!Rasen to become airborne and rise above the Rhine, but we were safe in this respect due to the combined waterlog in the turf. For the rest of the time, when not currently in use, the white tea towels are thrust into the belt at the rear of the band members’ trousers tops and either conjure up images of busy white tailed dancing beavers or over eccentric French or Italian waiters.
“Wildes Ding“ / “Wild Thing“ sung in German is one of the group’s more current hits from their latest “Flätrate“ album and a song which gives the four female dancers a chance to display their talents. “Schöne Neue Welt“ /”Beautiful New World” is one of Culcha Candela’s hits from 2009 and is not only a wonderful idea, but a very well crafted catchy song and contains cheeky Pas de deux heel clicks and a wonderful soft a cappella vocal ending. “Berlin City Girl“ follows, another of their hits, this time about a very intelligent, cheeky young lady, who knows what she wants and usually gets it. “Flätrate“ is the title song of Culcha Candela’s 2012 tour and their most recent album, and the boys trade their Ferrari-red jackets for black ones, and this up beat number describes in German the insatiable desires for ever more limitless voice and data consumption via “flat rates“.
“Me And My Beat“ involved all the band taking what looked at first like fluorescent yellow didgeridoos, but these were not the mysterious Australian wind instruments but instead staffs which were either hit with a drumstick horizontally, stamped on the ground vertically, or a combination of both. This number stood out for its minimalistic backing and it being the only time in the course of the evening when all the group were playing instruments live, albeit percussion ones. So a pleasant intermission indeed.
The current line up of six singers all have German passports, but also have roots stretching back to at least five different countries and four different continents, so it’s no wonder that the multi-culturism shines brightly through their collective work, emanating from under a German roof, or at least sky. They are equally at ease singing in German, English, Spanish or Jamaican patois, further highlighting the Reggae credentials in their music and the Jamaican dance hall roots. Hip hop also plays a rôle as do South American Latin rhythms.
“Hungry Eyes” from the Flatrate album, about predatory females gives the four dancing girls in black cat suits a chance to show their feline prowess, while “Ej DJ” is the tribute song by the singers Itchyban, Johnny Strange, Mr. Reedoo, Don Cali and Larito to Korean DJ Chino, the Techno powerhouse at the top and back of the stage. “Ej DJ” contains Hip Hop elements in the choreography of the female dancers and enthusiastic group jumping. Then followed a welcome drop in tempo as the boys leave the stage then change again and all four girls perform modern ballet and hip hop movements to a refreshingly quiet and serenely melodic cello instrumental, before the drum and bass booms kick in at the end.
“Es Geht Schon Von Allein” / “It Happens By Itself” was not only the title of the next German texted song, which is also the group’s latest single, it could also have been the evening’s motto for the lack of visible musical instruments, and as the song says “nobody asks why?” However, in this song one of the singers ironically straps on a modern version of the African Djembe hand drum and we hear once again for the second and last time in the evening a rhythmic instrument live on stage. The whole crowd are loving it though and as the smoke from the dry ice effuses from the stage, happily let the band direct them “en masse” seven steps to the left and seven steps to the right and back again, like a happy, pulsating, dancing caterpillar and willingly confirm and condone the underlying message of the song.
The white tea towels come out again for some more overhead twirling and there’s even a communal photo opportunity with Culcha Candela facing the back of the stage, presumably into either one of the lenses of DJ Chino’s Laptop, or a camera enhanced roadie, with the assembled throngs of the audience, some two thousand strong, with their hands held high in the background. A souvenir of the evening:
www.culchacandela.de/home/photos/(click on 20.07.12 Bonn)
A lot more hip hop from the girls, now in white jackets and right arm swings from the boys set to ever more pulsating beats and rhythms and about an hour since show began, the end was announced. Well if the 10 bouncing bodies on stage had been equipped with pedometers. I think we would have been quite astonished at the result, it had certainly been an energy packed show. Hold on a minute though, surely the show cannot close without us listening to the band’s two biggest hits, which both coincidentally happen to finish in the letter “a”? True enough it couldn’t .
The first encore was “Hamma!” from the group’s “Culcha Candela” album from 2007, and this song spent six weeks at the top of the German charts. “Hamma” is Jamaican patois for gun, but in this case it refers to a smokingly hot chick. The crowd appear to know all the words to this one, but apart from singing along, the band encourages everyone to jump up vertically into the air and then, whilst airborne, perform a 180 degree turn each time “Hamma!” is sung. The crowd is by now well and truly in the mood and into the spirit of things and comply enthusiastically and energetically. The second and final encore for this monster evening is “Monsta” from the “Schöne Neue Welt” CD and this made it to number three in both the German and Austrian charts in 2009, and was similarly well received by the assembled fans. “Monsta” is about another frighteningly, smokingly hot lady, who has more than her fair share of everything, without being overweight. Well, we’ve certainly had more than our fair share and spread out into the Rheinaue public park under now blue skies, uplifted and with a jolly spring in our gaits. Between me, you and the gate posts, I secretly enjoyed it much more than I anticipated, despite so many invisible instruments, perhaps that’s part of the magic of Culcha Candela holding the modern multicultural musical dancing candle high.
Report: J. Harrison