Sharing a Coffee with Amadou Diagne & Group Yakar

By Day Lilico

Yesterday morning at the North Cornwall Book Festival, I spotted the members of Group Yakar – keyboardist Jim Blomfield, guitarist Dan Pert and drummer Myke Vince – as well as Amadou Diagne himself, standing in line waiting for a hot drink from Laidback Coffee. I managed to grab them for an on-the-spot interview. The group of talented musicians performed together Friday night at St. Endellion church in fantastic style.

Amadou Diagne is a West African musician from Senegal, who comes from a family of praise singers and percussionists. He’s a singer-songwriter in three different languages, and talented on multiple instruments, such as guitar and drums. His first album – Introducing Amadou Diagne was released in 2012, and his third and most recent came out last year.

Amadou enjoyed the concert, the audience was lovely, and it had a good atmosphere. For him, it felt like the people in the audience shared everything he was creating on stage, the way they were singing along and dancing, very engaged with the music. Being on stage is such a different experience to being in the studio; Amadou says he likes to lose his professionalism a little bit and be more ‘real’ on stag14729234_1129234123839164_6454726265435533295_ne, feeling the music in his gut, improvising, responding to the audience and getting people excited. He admits that his third album, Ligéey, was his favourite to work on.

Cornwall has been amazing, he’s played in our county before (including at Falmouth University in 2014!), and loves it here. The festival has been a good experience, it’s amazing, everyone has been so welcoming. Amadou and his band said they were looked after so well by the team here, who cooked a special Senegalese dish to honour him- his personal favourite! He was particularly excited by the sound in the church, the acoustics were amazing.

Dan Pert is a versatile guitarist, based in Bath. He can play many different styles of music and teaches guitar and bass. He’s played all over the UK and his improvisational style means you’ll never hear him play the same thing twice.

Dan thought the concert went well, the response was nice- especially the dancing. The meal the band were given was amazing, really enjoyed the hospitality they were shown. Dan has been to Cornwall before, he used to surf at Newquay amongst other places! Dan has worked with Amadou for about 15 months, and they used to bus together on the streets. The joy of live performance for Dan is that he is an improviser by nature and a live concert allows him to react to the audience and play what they respond to. The recorded album gives a skeletal structure, and Dan will follow the vibe of the room and feel his way through a crowd.

Myke Vince was standing in for Paolo Adamo- the band’s usual drummer. Myke thought they had an inspired performance, the place was lovely and the acoustics incredible. He’s worked in Cornwall before, with KneeHigh theatre! Myke did some of the drumming on the album but doesn’t normally perform live with the band. The studio is where Myke refines the base note to then expand from in his performances. A live thing should be alive.

Myke says that musicians like simple things, and are not that fussed about money (some of the others contended this point), but they like to be looked after and respected. For him, musicians are against hierarchal things and don’t treat anyone differently to anyone else. A gig in a care home and one at a posh party are the same thing, and despite the contrast of these extreme realities he just likes to get on and make music.

14641949_1129234130505830_3839304261337880026_nJim Blomfield is the band’s jazz fusion keyboard player. He’s from the Bristol music scene and has accompanied internationally famous names. He released his own album in 2013 called ‘Wave Forms and Sea Changes’ which was critically acclaimed. He has a wide range of talents on the keyboard and piano and can use a variety of different styles.

Jim particularly enjoys small gigs like these as they reach people who don’t normally get a chance to hear the music, and the audience was very engaged. Jim used to play at a jazz club in St. Ives so he’s very familiar with Cornwall, but his wife hadn’t been before this weekend. Jim says that in live shows there’s a lot more space to open up and a chance to do more solos.

Together, these incredibly diverse artists make Group Yakar. For more information and to look for other opportunities to see them live, see here.

Group Yakar & Amadou would like to thank Cathy & the hospitality team from the North Cornwall Book Festival for taking such good care of them.

Photo credit: Daniel Hall Photography