Roberto Fonseca describes Yo, his new album on Harmonia Mundi, as “the beginning of a new phase – delving deep into my roots in light of my experiences and showing the diversity of my musical universe.” He introduced his live show at The Barbican last night by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to perform alongside Baba Sissoko on African percussion and Sekou Kouyate on Kora; after hearing a Salif Keita album as a child, sharing a stage with African musicians became a burning ambition. Fonseca’s relationship with Africa and the Yoruban culture in particular, play an integral part in his family heritage. He was raised in the San Miguel del Padrón neighbourhood in Havana, and it was his grandmother who passed on the Santería faith.


Paying homage to Cuba’s African roots, Yo, translated as ‘I’ or ‘me’, fuses a digital and analogue expression of the Griot tradition, with sampled vocals and electronic percussion riding alongside n’goni, congas, kora and the talking drum. Credit goes to Mikael Eldridge, aka Count, a producer known for his work with DJ Shadow, Radiohead and the Rolling Stones, who managed the project’s post-production, for giving the album its enveloping sonic depth.


There are few venues where such acoustic character can be fully experienced, but The Barbican in London is certainly one. Fonseca’s playing, in one moment furiously energetic, and considered and caressing in another, and Baba Sissoko’s poly-rhythmic mastery of the African percussion, enticed unwavering attention and deep-felt awe from the audience throughout the ninety minute performance. Rapturous applause and two standing ovations at the evening’s close gave testament to Fonseca’s prodigious talent, and the intuitive rapport he so clearly enjoys with his band.




Yo is out now, and Fonseco’s UK tour continues this week, preceding a trio of
additional dates now confirmed in May following the overwhelming response
to his opening shows:


Wed 28 March – York, Theatre Royal, 7.30pm / 01904 623568 / Tickets £15 + bkg


Thu 29 March – Brighton, Dome, 7.30pm / 01273 709709 / Tickets £15, £17.50 + bkg


Fri 30 March – Bristol, St George’s, 8pm / 0845 40 24 001 / Tickets £21 + bkg


Sun 1 April – Birmingham, Town Hall, 7.30pm / 0121 780 3333 / Tickets £15, £17.50 + bkg


Sun 6 May – Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 4.15pm
Jazz Arena, Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham GL50 1UW

01242 505444, 0844 880 8094 / Tickets: £17 + bkg


Sat 26 May – Bury St Edmunds Festival, 8pm
The Apex, Charter Square, Bury St Edmunds IP33 3FD

01284 758000 / Tickets: £16 + bkg


Tues 29 May – Salisbury International Arts Festival, 7.30pm
Salisbury City Hall, Malthouse Lane, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP2 7TU

0845 241 9651 / Tickets £22, £17.50, £12.50 + bkg