Muntu Valdo – The One and The Many
Resentment at the passing of a weekend too short-lived or exhaustion after one too well-spent make Monday night gigs a bit of a chore to attend. The sofa or one’s bed are, usually, a more tempting place to spend the evening.
As I arrive at a trendy east London venue on Monday 18 April to see London-based Cameroonian musician, Muntu Valdo, at the launch of his second album, the maxim seems to hold: there are only a handful of people puffing outside and a few more inside, drinking rather solemnly, in the way cool people do. But venturing past that lot and through a curtain, the mood is very different.
The room is packed and though Muntu’s not on stage yet, the opening act Ruby and the Vines have gripped the crowd with their blend of funk and jazz. The lead singer throws down some soulful notes over a thropping base. Already I have forgotten it is Monday.
Finally, Muntu takes to the stage to a raptuous welcome. When silence finally descends, the rather timid artist, with guitar in hand and harmonica perched around his neck, says a few words of appreciation in an English accent drenched in French intonation. Then he begins to play. What results is quite a magical set: the first part soft and emotive as Muntu plucks his guitar, plays his harmonica and sings in Douala, a dialect of the Littoral province of Cameroon. This is sawa blues. The definite highlight was the performance of Djongo, sang a capella and using looping pedals to create harmonies. By its end, a one man act has become a four-part choir and the audience are mesmerised.
The second part is an unexpected transformation: with little warning of what’s to come, Muntu calls on his band and suddenly we are grooving to his renditions of old Makossa hits. No longer the pained artiste singing songs of peace, love and long-suffering, Muntu morphs into an exhuberant front man, corralling the crowd to sing, clap and even jump to the music.
As Muntu Valdo leaves the stage, I feel both exhilarated and exhausted from the musical ride. This is definitely far too much fun for a Monday night.
The One and the Many was released on 11 April and Muntu Valdo will be touring the UK from May.