It feels like Colombo’s musical summer has officially recommenced: From the recent launch of the cozy new Border Movement Lounge to Bang Bang’s Curious Groove and the Music Matters festival, things are slowly beginning to hit overdrive. Friday the June 21st has us venturing into the BMICH for “Fête de la Musique” (or the Music Day) of Alliance Francaise de KOTTE, a festival full of colour showcasing an array of music from jazz to heavy metal.
We are there to see Isuru Kumarasinghe and Toc Toc Bayah (of Krema Diaz), two cult heroes of the island’s music scene, the latter accompanied by the band Diaphanous Veils. The air is intimate and the aura is warm; the crowd is one of the most eclectic in recent memory, from folks who have accidently wandered into the arena (it was a creditably free event), to fathers and grandmothers, toddlers (on the dance floor), fairies and leprechauns, beautiful girls, scenesters, school children, metal heads, three-wheeler drivers and Talent Scouting ‘suits’ (that would be us).
Anyone who has ever been to a Madlib (flaky) or Roots (fierce) concert knows how hard it is to pull off hiphop in a live setting. Things get doubly difficult if you don’t have the customary ring of weed carriers for moral support. Just before the gig, one might be forgiven for thinking that Toc Toc Bayah, a somewhat awkwardly flailing hunk/ogre of an MC, was about to invent a new subgenre of his own: Reluctant Rap. He almost looks like he has mistakenly gate-crashed the stage, knocked out the real MC, and started a hesitant soundcheck. That’s until the Shy MC Lite actually begins to rap.
Bayah’s plan of attack is a rapidfire flow that strikes at angles, internal rhyming like someone who’s just murdered a thesaurus. His voice & stage presence don’t assume full control, yet closer inspection reveals a man possessing vivid command of his language. The accompanying music of Diaphanous Veils, a three-man band, is loose and heavy: urgent like PE and raw like Dälek, falling in between seams of genres, sometimes across them. Isaac Smith’s deft double bass ping-pongs underneath, making us wish it’s turned up much louder in the mix. It’s a strangely charming gig, yet finds us searching for a real hook in the music to hold on to. But the lack of one seems the very intent of the design, as the night is more freewheeling—“live from the basement”—and all the better for it.