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Djabe - Sipi Benefit Concert (featuring Steve Hackett) (DVD) CD (album) cover



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Symphonic Team
2 stars Hackett is back in Hungary

You might perhaps be surprised to see me reviewing a release by an (from a Prog perspective at least, obscure) Hungarian Jazz-Rock/World-Fusion group. But the explanation is very simple: Steve Hackett participates in this live concert by Djabe and Steve is one of my biggest heroes, so I became interested. This nicely packaged double DVD set can be purchased from the former Genesis guitarist's official website, which is what I did. The content is a full live concert by Djabe with guests in front of a local audience. The whole event is held in honour of a former member of the band, András Sipos, who sadly passed away shortly before.

This unique (I have never heard/seen anything like it anyway) band is clearly very talented and everything here, from the actual performance to the stage setting, lighting, filming, recording, editing, production, packaging, etc. is very professional. In short, this is a professional product. As the band is playing in their home country, the in-between- songs-banter (including a long introduction of Steve) is in Hungarian and I must confess that I don't understand a single word of it! The liner notes in the booklet, however, as well as the DVD menus are thankfully in (both Hungarian and in) English. Steve joins the band about half-way through the first half of the show and adds his very distinctive electric guitar sound on top of what is otherwise a predominantly acoustic band. The many instruments played include trumpet, violin, flutes, sax, piano and dulcimer. The Rock element is ensured by the presence of guitars, electric bass and Rock drums. As always, Steve is dressed in black trousers and a black t-shirt and he is wearing his sunglasses as he walks on the stage! After one song playing his electric guitar with the band, the band leaves Steve alone on the stage to perform an acoustic medley featuring bits and pieces that those who have followed Steve's career will certainly recognize a few including a few by a certain famous band culminating in the timeless classic Horizons.

After Steve's medley, the band returns and Steve once again shifts to electric guitar. The music during this part of the show is very soothing and tranquil. Steve "colours" the sound with his floating guitar solos. After one more song Steve leaves the stage and lets the band carry on without him. The relaxing mood continues, however, until the closing of the first half of the show. Steve returns to the stage several more times during the second part of the show. His participation is often rather discrete here in order not to overshadow any of the many other instrumentalists on stage. For some songs there are more than ten people on the stage simultaneously! Occasionally, however, Steve bursts to the front of the sound with his expressive and distinctive guitar sound. Only towards the very end of the concert does Steve let it rip. It is also here that some of the very best songs enter.

As you can imagine this music is partly quite chaotic given the sheer amount of instruments and the strong tendency towards improvisation. This is extremely eclectic music, but as you might have inferred by now, this is by no means Prog.

There is one particularly interesting number where everyone on stage (including Mr. Hackett!) plays so called anklungs - a Southeast Asian instrument made out of two bamboo tubes attached to a frame. The base of the frame is held and shaken rapidly from side to side causing a rapidly repeating note to sound. Apparently, each of the angklung performers will play just one note and together complete melodies are produced!

In the bonus documentary there is a short interview with Steve filmed on a beach in Malaysia(!) as well as interviews with some of the members of Djabe commenting on, among many other things, the involvement of Steve. There is also footage of Steve performing the classic Firth Of Fifth solo together with some members from Djabe at some outdoor concert!

While this is certainly a fun concert film, I must say that this is far from essential stuff from a Prog perspective. It is tempting to give this a slightly higher rating, but to be perfectly honest, even for a Steve Hackett fanatic such as myself, this DVD is of only minor interest. This is particularly so given the existence of several absolutely excellent DVDs featuring Steve playing live with his own band (several of them also filmed in Hungary incidentally!). This Djabe concert is therefore probably best reserved for those fans and collectors with a very special interest.

Interesting, but probably not every Prog fans cup of tea

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Posted Saturday, June 26, 2010 | Review Permalink

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