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Pura Vida and The Congos in Belgium

Pura Vida and The Congos in Belgium

Pura Vida and The Congos in Belgium

By on - Photos by Gerard McMahon - Comment

Photo report of Pura Vida and The Congos in Brussels.

Since it invaded the musical landscape over 50 years ago, one of the healthier developments in reggae has been its adoption by musicians around the world. From Alborosie in Italy to the Bionic Rats in Ireland, almost every jurisdiction now has its own home-grown proponents of the genre. Given that Bob Marley was never replaced - how could he be? – and that reggae has been tainted by slackness, homophobia, misogyny, conservative birth control creeds and a reluctance to call out Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe for what it was, the internationalisation of the music has been one of its saving graces.

So step forward and take a bow Pura Vida, Belgium’s 9 member high grade roots reggae band. Pura Vida, led by Bregt ‘Puraman’ De Boever, has been composing and playing quality music since 2006, when they won the Rototom regional contest. Since then they have successfully liaised with such luminaries as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Jah9, Leroy Sibbles and Sylford Walker, and also made time to produce a string of quality albums.

To the delight of Belgium’s reggae lovers they also recently renewed acquaintances with the legendary Congos, playing to full houses in both Brussels and Bredene on the Belgian coast. This liaison also coincided with the completion of their new Morning Star album, composed in collaboration with the Congos at the Belgian-based Lost Ark Studio.

Both shows started with Pura Vida taking a half hour to showcase their undoubted talents via 5 top tunes. Top of their list was Marley’s Natural Mystic, whilst it was also an opportunity for the audience to preview the lively It’s all over now track from their new album. And all this before Puraman rocked the rafters with his harmonica playing. If there was one element that I’d have put in for a ‘top up’ on, it would be Puraman on his harmonica, which was wielded to such effect that not only does it hugely enhance the live show, bringing reggae’s Augustus Pablo to mind, but is also reminiscent of British rock star Jethro Tull’s weaving of his flute like some type of conductor’s baton. But Puraman knows that the trick is to keep your audience wanting more – and this he does to maximum effect. Top marks also to Mathieu Villain, who was able to mix and match his trumpet playing with some judicious mouth harp inputs, set to Bobo’s and Wowie’s guitar riffs, whilst Xan drove the show from his drum kit.

Thereafter, the mighty Congos joined the ensemble, with Cedric Myton taking over as the show’s front man. The good news is that the magical Myton is still well able to fulfill this role. Such is his agility and vibrancy on stage that he reminded one of his tutor Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s frequent aside that: "I am getting younger". From the beginning to the end of both shows, Myton’s presence was akin to that of a man half his age – and the good news is that his voice has lost none of its spine tingling falsetto pitch.

Despite Pura Vida’s well established ability to mix musical genres, both shows adhered righteously and rigidly to roots reggae. Hence, many of the immortal tracks from the Congos’ Heart of the Congos masterpiece were on display, from the uplifting Congoman opener, through Open Up The Gate, Children Crying, La La Bam Bam, Sodom and Gomorrah and Ark of the Covenant to Fisherman. The live set, which ran to about 2 hours, also featured such Congo classics as: Youth Man, Revolution, Swinging Bridge, Lost Sheep, National Heroes, La Le Bella, together with their We Nah Give Up collaboration with Pura Vida from the 2011 album of the same name. The set also included a preview of the moving and relevant Teach Dem, the opening track from their new album.

Unfortunately the perennial paperwork problem that plagues the Rastaman persisted, as Watty Burnett failed to make the tour. However, there was no shortage of willing takers for his classic "Peg the collie man sell the best collie in sea port town" input on Fisherman. His absence was also ably compensated for by the presence of the well-grounded and amiable Congo ‘Ashanti’ Roy and the most gracious and gentle Kenroy Fyffe, whilst Puraman and his cohorts displayed a musical excellence that thrilled both full houses. Truth be told, Puraman’s instrumental prowess was matched only by his hearty laugh and broad smile!

And on top of their new Morning Star collaborative album, the good news is that Pura Vida and the Congos promise to relive this Belgian experience with more live shows later this year. Go deh … clear the diary I say!

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