Review: H'SAO

St Paul's Cathedral
Saturday, October 13

H'SAO is a well-known and popular musical group from Chad which has toured extensively and made it big-time in Canada's music scene, particularly Montreal where it is now based.

H'SAO presented a two-hour recital in St Paul's Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, which was full of the joys of making loud music and singing. The five-member group showed incredible energy and versatility on synth, guitars, drums and various shakers.

Their music combines the rhythms of traditional Central African regions with Western styles of jazz, gospel and R&B, and is unmistakably ethnic through and through, whether with text in their mother tongue dialect, French, Arabic or English. Continual body movement matched the mood and rhythm of the music, which was mostly in the form of building to a colourful climax through variation of call and response between themselves, and at times with the audience.

I would have appreciated a programme sheet with titles, as spoken introductions were inaudible for many in the packed cathedral, and the songs were often similar in sound and style, though I am sure the text would have been varied. Some of the excellent solo passage highlights obviously expressed very deep sentiments on a certain topic or event. But I did manage to catch the title of La vie est belle, and so understood why midway, one vocalist suddenly burst into an extremely high jumping and gyrating dance routine. (Chad's version of Michael Jackson!)Reverb levels in the mix were much too strong for the natural acoustics in the vast openness of the cathedral - at least from my mid-centre pew.

The members of the H'SAO group have such a passion for their music and their country, plus a real skill for working their fans and a crowd. I would love to have heard them in another venue - our stadium perhaps?

- Elizabeth Bouman


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