Friday nights in London usually end up one way for me – empty walleted and heavy headed. So when one of my best friends from Uni asked if I wanted to come to see the Amadou and Mariam ‘Eclipse’ concert, I leapt at the chance. He knows everything about music and as much as I love it, my knowledge stretches little further than to what comes next on the Blonde on Blonde album. So off we went to the York Hall in Bethnal Green. We handed over our tickets and in return we were given a vast list of things we could NOT do.
No open footwear – a rule I often see which freaks me out. What exactly are you planning on doing to my toes?
Mobiles OFF, no flashing at all!
No drinking or food – not even a Malteser or a sip of Strongbow.
And lastly in capitals – if you need to get out RAISE THIS CARD (which was luminous)
I am not going to lie – I was a little freaked out…
It then became clear. We were going to a concert in the black, the pitch black.
Amadou and Mariam are both blind and wanted to show the crowd how they their experienced music…HUNDREDS of people had bought tickets to come to East London on a Friday night to sit on hard chairs, no drink in hand and stripped of vision to listen to this pair. I was intrigued.
One forgets how disarming being in the pitch black withuot shutting your eyes is, especially surounded by people. Suddenly sounds began to creep from everywhere and by the time the music began… I was completely entranced. It was one of the most amazing sensory experiences I have ever encountered – scents of Africa were pumped into the audience. Some of them more pleasant than others.
It was like an orgy of the senses, with the eyes unusually being the fat hairy bloke in the corner desperately trying to get in.
The music told the story of the couple’s lives in Mali, their meeting at the Young Blind institute to them NOW, playing under the light of the suddenly revealed artifical but very silvery moon. Amadou and Mariam had the crowd stamping their feet as if they were straight out of the bush. And speaking of bushes there was one one I wouldn’t mind diving into on stage – Damon Albarn just playing the flute. Seeing him after a good hour or so of being blind was the perfect end to one hell of a concert…
If you cannot see, your sense of
sound becomes richer. You appreciate
the qualities of sound. That’s one
reason I wanted to have a series of
concerts in the darkness. I wanted
the audiences to try to hear the
music just as Mariam and I hear it.