Supafine at The Smugglers Tavern, London (May 29) | Event Review

Supafine – the monthly showcase night held every last Saturday at the Smuggler’s Tavern, central London – has had some of the capital’s finest live acts grace its stage.  The idea behind the gigs, according to promoter DJ Speedy, is for artists to bring their diamond-in-the-rough, unfinished pieces to the attention of an audience who will appreciate the raw talent on display.  As the artist feeds off the crowd’s reaction they can later refine the finished product.

Since its inception in 2007, Supafine has been host to the likes of Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Kevin Mark Trail and Heidi Vogel.  Last Saturday’s mouth-watering line up included Lyric L, Sarina Leah and Best unsigned act MOBO-winner, Fola Phillips.

First up was poet Lyric L, whose gift for spoken word has seen her share a platform with Omar, Izzi Dunn, Ty and Incognito to name a few.  Her confident delivery, naturally humorous manner and witty lyrics are evidence enough of why she is in demand.

Saturday’s show featured rising Nu-soul star Louise Golbey on BVs, adding another dimension to L’s flow.  These ladies have very good creative chemistry as demonstrated on their impromptu acapella performance of a track called ‘Off the Bat’.

Next was the lovely Fola Phillips, who from the first note took her audience captive and held them there with soul-soaked vocals that have just enough sweetness for the medicine to go down nice and smooth.

The single ‘Phenomenal Woman’ is indicative of what makes Miss Phillips special.  It’s a sophisticated, cooler-than-expletive tune,

conjuring up images of breath-taking city sky-lines and young urban living not unlike ‘Diamond Life’ era Sade or late ’70s/early ’80s Quincy Jones.  Lyrically, Fola manages to be direct and simple without falling into the trap of triteness.  This is genuine, life-affirming music.  Gorgeous.

Fola was followed by angel voiced Sarina Leah, muse of Eric Lau, who can also be currently heard on Ty’s smash single ‘Emotions’ alongside Shaun Escoffery Miss Leah has one of the prettiest and most effortless tones around, her vocals bouncing delicately off each syllable like a wing on a petal.  As well as some of her established repertoire last week’s Supafine crowd were treated to a couple of Sarina exclusives.  Personal favourite, ‘Time Will Tell’ from Lau’s critically-acclaimed 2008 album ‘New Territories’ was given the acoustic treatment.

Unfortunately Leah’s guitarist appeared to be the weakest link, starting on the wrong key and playing in lacklustre fashion so that the beauty of the track wasn’t done justice.  Leah’s vocal quality remained as pure and delightful as ever and could easily hold the attention of the room.  However it would have been great if she was backed by a musician worthy of her talents.

The set ended on a high, nevertheless when Sarina performed the nu-jazz number ‘The Gravity of Blues’ produced by Tropical Fruit.  The song shows-off the songstress at her writing best and her exquisite airborne phrasing couldn’t suit it any better.  She even teased the audience with some very impressive but all-too-brief scatting.

To round off proceedings there was a bonus mini-PA by Louise Golbey and rapper 3rd Person when Speedy called them up to do (an unplanned) rendition of underground hit, ‘Same Old, Same Old’.  Completely acapella, Golbey’s clean and crisp vocals had the room rapt.

For all those yet to attend Supafine it’s truly a night well spent.  A very reasonably priced weekend event in pleasant surroundings, an accessible location, consistently high quality artists, good ambiance and an audience that have the courtesy to listen attentively when the acts perform?…there really aren’t that many shows that can tick all those boxes.

–Tola Ositelu

Photography by David Mensah