Joe Driscoll, as well as being described as the ‘true essence of hip hop music’ by Speech of Arrested Development, has been deemed ‘the gangster with the iron lung’ by Gnarls Barkley‘s Cee-lo Green. Although these may be considered complimentary comparisons by most musicians, being described as a cross between Radiohead and 50 Cent doesn’t quite cut it for Joe Driscoll, even if it is used to portray his impeccable ability to genre-hop. The man is far more unpredictable than that, but somehow the multi-instrumentalist still manages to make things work musically.
Some of his tracks have obvious folk influences, while others wouldn’t sound out of place on a hip hop record. Having crossed a huge number of genres off his check list, Driscoll now has taken on the challenge of making an Afrobeat album with a little help from Sekou Kouyate, his new friend who plays the kora (a harp-like instrument which is heavily used in West Africa, most notably by Toumani Diabate).
For someone who is used playing solo shows with only an effects pedal for company, Driscoll has adapted well to playing with a full band. Kouyate on the other hand, is in more familiar territory, having played in Guinean band Ba Sissiko before the pair met at a French music festival.
Once known as the scraggly Hector’s House, the refurbished Blind Tiger Club is now the home of Playgroup, a Brighton-based event label who put on a number of nights involving a whole host of exciting new music. Driscoll is one of Playgroup’s regular artists, having appeared at their festival last year and playing regulars solo sets at the venue. Following sets from local swing-hop band Lazy Habits and flamenco act More Like Trees, the pair open with album introduction, Tanama. It sounds fantastic in such an intimate venue, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Brighton seafront. Being mainly instrumental and containing barely any vocals, the track allows both of the musicians to show off their superb guitar and kora playing skills in front of an animated crowd.
Next up is Passport. Although some of song’s lyrics are questionable (see: “I haven’t got a visa, I’ve got a stick a reefa, maybe you can toke it?”), they sound far better live than on the album. That album, Faya, is not meant to be a big lyrical strut but rather a fun and accessible summer sound and been successful in extending the boundaries of Driscoll’s fan base to world music.
An uplifting, re-vamped version of Driscoll’s token solo track, Mixtape Champs, pleases those less familiar with the newer material; Kouyate’s mesmerising kora playing gives the track a more layered feel to it, which is refreshing to hear. This killer kora continues throughout the show, bringing each song to life. This is especially evident in an extended version of their final track, Wonamati, which also featured some brilliant solos. A great set that breathed new life into their album and opened many audience members’ eyes and ears to different sounds.