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Monday, 19 August 2013

Heavy Soundz July 31


Heavy Soundz  |  Club Balattou

NUIT DIASPORA AFRICAINE  |  EVAN CRANDELL
PHOTOS  |  EVAN CRANDELL

July 21, 2013 - Most musicians have experienced this scenario at some point in their career: it is an off night at the venue where you are playing, there are ten minutes until your set is supposed to start, and there are hardly more people in the audience than there are in the band.

This is what Montreal-based Heavy Soundz faced Sunday night at Club Balattou, in what was supposed to be the grand finale show of the 2013 Festival International Nuits d’Afrique. The show was slated to start at 11 p.m., which already seemed late for a non-headlining band on a Sunday, and it was not until about 40 minutes later that the musicians came to the stage. By that time, it was hard to believe that there would be improvements on the paltry attendance and dispirited vibe in the room. 

As the band stirred and finally started playing, though, they were confident. Perhaps there was a method to all the waiting around. When the first notes were played, the bar immediately got an injection of hard-hitting, Latin-infused musical energy. It was as if the group refused to let the people in the audience be bored. Sometimes a band has the crowd in the palm of their hand from the start of a show, other times they have to will them to engage. Heavy Soundz has the musical brand and the firepower to do the latter. Their mix of Latin urban music, reggae, and hip hop aroused the crowd and caused it to consistently grow throughout the night so that by the end, the dance floor was packed and the energy was high. 

Heavy Soundz is perhaps a better representation of music from the African Diaspora than it is of music from Africa today. The band members hail from Haiti, Latin America, and Quebec. Their spread-out backgrounds and amalgamation of various genres is evidence of the power and reach of African music in the West. Even though purists might not consider what Heavy Soundz plays to be African music, their sound has undeniable African roots. 

The music was meant for dancing. The songs were all played at accessible tempos and most were based on riffs in the guitar and bass. On top of that groundwork were some slippery but lyrical trombone lines, various percussion contributions, and some sensual, if a bit loud, vocal hooks. In front of it all, though, were the MCs. There are five in Heavy Soundz and at times they all would be on the stage (which was meant for maybe five people total). The rapping would have had more effect if the sound in the room was mixed differently so the words were more clear. We could hear that many songs had chants where the band would repeats lines like, “Hip hop, hip hop,” or, “this is for hip hop.” They should know that repeating the name of the genre does not make a band more authentic in that genre. The MCs’ sheer energy and charisma, though, were enough to get the audience going. 

By the end of the night, the band accomplished what they came to do. They gradually filled the bar with people and the vivacity of their playing never let up. There is something to be said for a band that can create a party atmosphere out of almost nothing. It also says something about Heavy Soundz’s professionalism that they were unperturbed at the beginning of the show. This band deserves a larger stage where they can literally and musically stretch out. If they can fill up Club Balattou after how few people were there in the beginning, they could certainly do the same in larger venues. They play their music with a vigor that gives them a magnetism. Even though their musical nuances are a bit rough around the edges, one cannot help but be drawn to them and want to see what they will do next.
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