This time of year, the evenings can start to get a bit dreary at times, I'm sure you'll agree. Fun summer nights seem like they're just out of reach, and all the days strangely begin to feel like they're merging into one another (yes, I'm this dramatic without sunshine in my life!). To counter all this, anything with remotely the most unique-sounding premise, and I'm up for checking it out. Seeing Naturally 7 and Muntu Valdo at the Barbican seemed like just the thing on a February evening.
Before going to the show, I was only aware that Naturally 7 is (naturally!) a seven man group from the US, known for its ability to take acapella singing to new heights, incorporating harmonies with vocally delivered instruments. My friend and I were intrigued to see this live.
Before their headline performance, the evening started with opening act Muntu Valdo, a multi-talented Cameroonian Jazz guitarist, harmonica player and singer. One word to describe his performance... brilliant. He was charming and funny, with a beautifully rich voice. He made it seem so effortless to sing whilst playing his instruments.
Having started displayoing his abilities as an 8 year old with a makeshift guitar, and then writing and developing Cameroonian Sawa Blues by the time he was 15, it's no surprise that Valdo is a star on the festival and tour circuit. He began pursuing a musical career whilst studying in Linguistics and History in his homeland, and then moved to Paris with a French producer's encouragement. Several cross-continental tours and albums later, Valdo finally moved to London, where, amongst other exciting developments, he has supported Ladysmith Black Mambazo on their UK tour.
So it was a privilege to see him deliver what felt like an intimate performance, despite trhe grand venue. Unlike many an opening performance I've witnessed before - where all you're thinking is "bring the main act on already" - Valdo's set a high bar for Naturally 7 to follow.
Then out they came, all 7 members, including brothers and founding members Roger and Warren Thomas, Rod Eldridge, Napoleon 'Polo' Cummings, Dwight Stewart, Garfield Buckley and Armand "Hops" Hutton.
Having toured with Michael Bublé, with hits in the charts in several countries and millions of views on Youtube, Naturally 7 have a huge fan base, and there's no doubt that many of their UK contingent were with us by the hundreds that evening. Seeing Naturally 7 deliver what can only be described as an aural masterpiece of a set, including their 2006 hit "Feel It (In The Air)", you could completely see why.
There were moments of brilliance for each and every one of the group's members, with their (sub?!) human voices delivering everything from guitars and trumpets to harmonicas and drums. Just AMAZING and a must-see.
Words: Rachel S
Photography: Emile Holba
Photography Naturally & performing at the Barbican Centre on Tuesday 7 February 2012.