Quintet on stage, Coco Bamboo sail on
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FIVe members out of the 50-plus Paris, France-based Coco Bamboo troupe came to close the first ‘Semaine de la France’ (French Week) Business Forum, last Thursday, at the national Museum and House of Culture. (Photos by Iman Mani)

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IT’S only fair that having opened the first ‘Semaine de la France’ (French Week) Business Forum last week (Monday),with live music provided by a local band, the event should be closed with a band from France.

The one’s brought from Paris to function this task were five members from the much larger band of entertainers called Coco Bamboo, who are based right there in the French capital city.

Before welcoming them to take the make-shift stage in the National Museum and house of Culture’s grounds under a big tent last Thursday, the head of Cooperation and Cultural Affairs for the French embassy here, Philippe Boncour, said it would take too long for him to mention all of this group’s merits.

However, seeing that they were closing a business forum that evening, he chose to mention a few, which are related to business. He then talked about Coco Bamboo having performed at a number of impressive places.

Included in the list was two years ago, at theWorld economic Forum, in DavosKlosters, Switzerland and on a number of occasions, at the famous cabaret in the Chale de Dever, right there in Paris, for a number of years.

The ‘Daily News’ is not able to say anything concerning these performances in Switzerland or France but can vouch for their exhilarating professional performance here, while being saved from the April showers by a large hall-shaped tent.

It should be enough here to say that these five artists - Director and pianist Philippe Lossen, drummer, Maximin Yves, bassist Mano Falla, guitarist Julien Nativel and singer Rosa Ines Villegas – literally closed the event with a shout.

They were able to get not only their host: Locally-based French Ambassador, Malika Berak, on the floor dancing, but all others present before reluctantly leaving the stage. however, seeing such display of a wholesome entertainment it would not be fair to leave these writings here.

The experience from these five artists, made one wonder what it would have been like had they come with the entire Coco Bamboo troupe, which is somewhere beyond 50 persons.

The mind boggles with imagination. Boncour completed his introduction of the five by promising those present they would enjoy a number of ‘tropical sounds’, seeing certain members of the visiting troupe originally come from different islands in the Caribbean and one of them from the Reunion Island.

He also told them they would be tempted to dance, at some point during the performance. ‘That being the case’, he advised “there should be no hesitation, for although the floor belongs to the artists, it will also be theirs within minutes of the band starting to play.”

It’s fortunate that the ‘Daily News’ had taken the opportunity to have a small chat with the founder and director of the troupe, Philippe, together with Rosa and Julien, during the space after they had finished their sound check, before actually starting their performance.

They were just cooling-out in a circle and agreed to answer a few questions on their purpose and music. Philippe, who comes from the Caribbean island of Martinique, was very proud that the group he had created 20 years ago was causing such a stir, everywhere they had gone.

He supported this claim with a string of places they had been to perform. Next, Rosa, who has a Paris and Colombia background told the ‘Daily News’ that over the 20 years they have been around the world playing in different events.

Amongst the names, she mentioned they have played with is the popular British singer Mick Jagger. Both emphasised that what they do mostly is Caribbean music from the West Indies and Latin America.

At this point in the conversation Julien, who comes from a Reunion Island and Senegalmix, chipped-in, being professional musicians they want to go as far as possible showing-off Caribbean music to the rest of the world.

This means, have prepared to do as mush gigs as possible. “You see in the Caribbean there’s a lot of typical music. For example, in Cuba there is Salsa music, which is known everywhere in the world. Again, in Jamaica, there’s Reggae music, which is also known everywhere in the world.

In Colombia, there’s Cumbia music and in Martinique, Dominica and guadeloupe there’s Zouk music. The music of the Caribbean is known everywhere, so we play for the people and it is our pleasure,” Philippesimply added.

When asked what they would like an audience to do in response to their music, all three replied in unison, ‘dance and enjoy’ what they call ‘happy music’.

Julien, the youngest amongst the five visitors, took this point further to say that if you don’t see people even moving their head or shoulders, then there’s something wrong with what they’re doing.

This he claims applies even more in an African environment, where there is a sharing of a musical culture. At the beginning of a performance there might be some space in which the audience would be wondering what kind of music they’re playing.

However, at the end of the day, seeing that the roots are the same, at some point they must dance and enjoy themselves. That being the case the ‘Daily News’ enquired concerning their feeling towards going to play for primarily a business community here, who will be sitting-down eating, drinking and chatting.

“That would be a big and good challenge”, Rosa immediately replied. Then after a small pause she continued, “We’re going to see if we can make them, even if they’re too shy to dance, just move a little,” she added in a confident tone.

The Coco Bamboo group had come straight from Paris the previous night just for this single concert but told the ‘Daily News’ they were ‘crazy with happiness’ about coming, when they received the request from the embassy.

Being here for them was an ‘honour’. As to selecting what they were go ing to play, from their massive repertoire, members of the embassy helped form a play list, to which they made sure to add as many songs as necessary to play for as long as is required.

Apart from these five artists’ involvement with the Coco Bamboo troupe, all members have other musical connections, by themselves and with other musicians.

This does not disturb their devotion to Coco Bamboo, so when it’s time for rehearsal together they do just that. Each member has the responsibility of making sure they know the troupe’s songs so when they come together certain things can be taken for granted.

All members are based in Paris, where they met and from there they have managed to perform in Norway, Monaco, Switzerland, Sweden, Arabia, Dubai, emirate and Spain, just to name a few places.

At times, due to difference cultures, they have to adjust certain aspects of their act, just to suit a particular audience. As a band, they adhere to the call to rehearse whenever they have a gig. They also use each show as a rehearsal for the next one.

For a band that initially started 20 years ago after meeting at a cabaret in the Chale de Dever, there in Paris, they seem to be doing more than fine. It was a Caribbean event on that night, they met, which involved music and dance.

Since starting what they call their ‘adventure’ there, they have been taking their cabaret entertainment to all corners of the globe. There’s not a month they don’t have two or three gigs as Coco Bamboo.

That in it full sense could mean a brass band, dancers and generally a cabaret show, which involves from four to fifty persons on stage. It all depends on the client’s requirements.

Last Thursday here in Dar es Salaam five members proved enough to light the Coco Bamboo touch here.

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