A clever trick of the ear

Bury St Edmunds Festival, Vocal Sampling, Corn Exchange, Thursday May 21 There is a technique in painting called 'Trompe l'oeil ('Trick the eye') which creates optical illusions, often making you believe you are seeing something which is not really there; the music of Vocal Sampling ought perhaps to be called 'Trompe l'oreille' because you close your eyes whilst listening to this six-piece Cuban vocal group and you hear a whole salsa band, percussion, bass, brass, guitars - all created with the performers' voices alongside their singing.

Bury St Edmunds Festival, Vocal Sampling, Corn Exchange, Thursday May 21

There is a technique in painting called 'Trompe l'oeil ('Trick the eye') which creates optical illusions, often making you believe you are seeing something which is not really there; the music of Vocal Sampling ought perhaps to be called 'Trompe l'oreille' because you close your eyes whilst listening to this six-piece Cuban vocal group and you hear a whole salsa band, percussion, bass, brass, guitars - all created with the performers' voices alongside their singing.

This is an extraordinary group of musicians who create stunning effects and exciting foot-tapping music, deceiving your ears with their vocal techniques. In their Bury Festival concert they started with, for me, their least impressive piece - an arrangement of the opening section of Richard Strauss's 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' (as used in 2001 - A Space Odyssey) - and the first few pieces of the evening were a little unbalanced.

Once they had warmed up, however, the group quickly managed to animate and impress the disappointingly small audience in the Corn Exchange. Many of their pieces were Cuban, based on salsa, son and rumba, but there were also arrangements of modern numbers such as the superb Hotel California with its uncannily convincing electric guitar solo - again produced vocally.


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The singers responsible for bass and drums were also hugely impressive; the 'percussion solo' which demonstrated an incredible range of drum-kit and percussion sounds was one of the most amazing vocal feats I have ever heard - absolutely breathtaking!

In numbers such as 'Guantanamera' the group got the audience involved very successfully, and by the end of the second half every number was acclaimed with great enthusiasm. Inevitably there was an encore, and the group chose to sing Tu Mamina a lovely restrained close-harmony piece, ending a spectacular and exciting concert with a gentle moment of calm.

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Wynn Rees

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