It’s a rollicking, late Saturday night of primitive fun as the front bar of the Espy is transformed into a dance floor not a far cry from something one would see at a Rainbow Serpent or a Woodfood Folk Festival.
Tonight, Ganja Giri – who has indeed performed at both those festivals and who is hugely popular on similar circuits all around the world – is here to launch the third single “Get It Started” from latest LP effort Good Voodoo.
Local trio of drum thundering lads, Cumbia Cosmonauts, have the crowd all ready to go with their spine-shuddering beats and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some cracks forming on the floor from the enthusiastic audience before the main event even takes to the stage.
Gangja Giri and his band take no time at all to set up and the crowd is salivating watching them sound-check. The response to the booming, “Hey! How y’all doing out there? Are you ready for Ganga Giri?” would kill any performer’s potential nerves – not that these guys appear to have any. They’re as natural up there as their name suggests, particularly when it’s breathed down a beautiful didjeridu by Giri himself.
The aptly named song, “Jump Up”, puts the stress back on the floor as the chorus builds to, you guessed it, the audience leaping like maniacs. Energy levels are skyrocketing and the night has only just begun.
The men on stage are not deterred by any lack of vocal feedback from the crowd – Ganja Giri’s music is all about the movement it creates and the wriggling, devoted bodies on the dance floor is the most positive response they could ask for.
A remix of “Swimming In The Sound” by drummer, Dan Pearson, is truly striking amongst the generally inebriated punters. There’s a breakdown of instruments mid-way through as the band flesh out an all-too-brief jam, but there’s no break from the primeval creatures that have taken over the room.
Each new song surprisingly brings a fresh beat and, although it’s a free gig in the Espy’s front bar tonight, there are very few people here by accident. Any passer-bys end up staying for one or two songs; the rest of the set, even.
The musical collaboration with Harry Manx receives an aggressively exuberant response while Ganja Giri goes off the jungle path we’re on with some spontaneous freestyling. Even performing a couple of new songs whose mixing hasn’t quite been fine-0tuned to their potential, for the ninety minutes they’re on stage, caution is thrown to the wind.
“Now do you want to chill out for a bit or crank it up?” aks Giri. Of course, the lapping crowd don’t want to lose a single beat – there is no slowing down tonight. “Keep Your Fire Burning” certainly keeps the blood flowing.
They push past their time slot to finish on a new track and it’s the first time we hear a hint of straight up electronica, albeit layered under a smooth didjeridu solo, with a light dusting of drum and bass that leaves the crowd begging for more. A couple of a capella verses of “Redemption Song” later and it’s time for the crowd to disperse.
The percussionists are magnetic, never losing pace for such exhaustive music and hats off to the crowd for keeping up as well. Front men Ganja Giri and Jornick Joelick ooze friendly charisma and total respect for their profession.
You can’t dispute the coming together of all sorts tonight: men in three-piece suits from a neighbouring function, metal heads heavy in black and dripping in piercings from a gig next door and the mile-long dreads of the ardent fans there to see their favourite band – Ganja Giri put a show on for everyone to lose themselves in and all you have to bring is no inhibitions.
- Anne-Louise Hill