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Latitude 2019

Sons of Kemet

Genre: Music

Venue: Latitude Festival BBC Sounds Stage


Low Down

Sons Of Kemet is the iconoclastic mix of tenor sax, tuba and double drums. Led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, the MOBO award-winning Sons Of Kemet features Theon Cross on tuba and both Tom Skinner (Hello Skinny, Mulatu Astatke) and Eddie Hick (Roots Manuva, Gilad Atzmon) on drums. Hypnotic double drum rhythms frame the colourful interplay of saxophone and tuba as the original compositions are brought to life by four fiercely creative musicians. 


Sunday afternoon is a low energy time in a festival. The sort of time where you might want to settle down on the grass in front of an unchallenging and not-too-noisy act like Cat Power. You want your bones to do as little work as possible, so when someone walks past with an arresting purple shirt and a sign saying “£5 waiter service – maximum 4 drinks” you idly contemplate it. Would it be worth paying a fiver to avoid 4 trips to the bar? Even though it is only 30 meters away? Do I even want 4 pints just now?


So Cat Power would be an ideal choice for a Sunday afternoon slot and, who knows, maybe she was great, but I wouldn’t know anything about that because on my way there I accidentally wandered into Sons of Kemet. Bold, brassy, pacy beats lured me from my sunny daze and into the sweaty gloom of the BBC Sounds Stage.


Two drummers, a tuba and a saxophone is an unusual ensemble and you would be forgiven for thinking this is because it just does not work. Sons of Kemet immediately demonstrated that it can. The monged-out Sunday dozers had taken their leave and a fresh pulsating Friday energy was rippling through the crowd. Drawn to the front by the magnetic presence of Shabaka Hutchings, the 6’7” saxophonist whose passion was dripping off him in rivers of sweat, I was lost to the Carribean jazz fusion.


After the relentless high-energy, high-funk set with no breaks between songs, the audience had little left in them. Broken, blinking and dazed, they staggered out into the bright bright day to find a patch of grass, some low-effort music and a person they could pay to bring them a beer.