Mala In Cuba at London Jazz Festival, Brixton Electric | Live Review

A pioneering dubstep producer being featured as part of the London Jazz Festival might seem strange from the outside. However, Mala has a habit of breaking moulds.

Notorious for shunning publicity and only sporadically releasing dub plates, he has somehow managed to maintain a low profile in this era of relentless social network fuelled promotion. This is quite a feat, considering as one half of Digital Mystikz he was an integral part of the DMZ label and their infamous club nights. In the process, he perhaps inadvertently help lay major groundwork for the monster that dubstep has become. It’s only now, with the backing of Gilles Peterson, that the release of Mala in Cuba has pushed him into the limelight – and a packed, expectant Brixton Electric was there on November 17 to see how well the album translates into a live experience.

Any doubts on this issue are put to rest once Mala drops the needle on the record and is joined by two percussionists plus a keyboardist on either side of him. Their immaculate musicianship ensured the studio recordings are built on and the songs make even more sense in a live setting. Performing the album in its entirety, Mala and his cohorts successfully fuse bass heavy grooves with traditional Cuban music in an authentic and organic way that is refreshing to witness.

The welcome presence of guest vocalist Danay Suarez on the set’s highlight “Noches Sueno’s” goes down a treat with everyone. Her sensual, soaring vocals mesh perfectly with the hypnotic grooves created by the mesmerizing percussion patterns, dub flavored keys and Mala’s venue shaking sub bass rhythms.

Extended Percussion jams and Mala’s heart warming shout out to his family member’s in attendance all add to the good vibes radiating throughout all in attendance. After an hour that flies by all too quickly, they all exit stage left to a triumphant ovation. The hit and miss Gilles Petterson and enjoyable Silkie DJ sets that follow are welcome additions to the line-up and round off the evening nicely. However, it’s the dreadlocked Mala and his assorted group of brilliant musicians that the night belonged to.