We giddy up to The Forge, where Melodies Simmer and Lyrics Sweat in Global Harmonies…
My goodness, the bubbling heat at the aptly named The Forge in the vibrant melting pot of Camden Town was relentless. The atmosphere for Noga Ritter was buzzy and exhilarating, but boy oh boy, we were schvitzing.
The Forge, situated in the heart of old Camden Town, is renowned for celebrating diversity and eclecticism in the music and arts scene. In perfect harmony with the warm weather, the venue gradually came to life on that sunny Thursday evening. Vibrant ethnic prints, sandals, bright florals, and a multitude of hairstyles and headscarves adorned the attendees, creating a colorful and lively atmosphere. Before long, the venue reached its maximum capacity, the photographers’ Royal Crown hairdressing was melting, and I was becoming increasingly slippery.
As the band is called to the stage, we realize that they’ve been amongst the lively and friendly crowd for some time, having a drink, socialising, and generally being part of this warm, welcoming community. The performance by the stunning and captivating Noga Ritter, alongside her band of ten truly fabulous musicians, unfolds so naturally and organically that it feels as if a group of friends have spontaneously decided to play a few tunes for everyone’s mutual enjoyment at a party. And so, an evening of glorious, soul-searching, introspective yet all-encompassing inclusivity begins…
This evening is a celebration of her new album IMA (mama), released last month and her band includes: Tomer Eldor (on keys), Basil Petite (on bass), Maurizio Ravalico (on percussion), Giuliano Osella (on drums), Alessandro Gugel (on guitar ); Dembis Thioung on percussion and on the front line- Tony Kofi (tenor sax) Byron Wallen (on trumpet) and Patrick Kenny (on trombone). In the middle of these world-class players is the spell-binding Noga herself.
The songs, mostly from IMA, are a musical confirmation of the power and strength of women. Intimate stories are interwoven with personal narratives and this glorious fusion of Hebrew Jazz, world music, Afro beats and interpretations which defy genre classification. The sound is totally her own; unique, authentic, and fabulous. Her lockdown song, “And the World Stands Still” kicks the evening off and Noga’s full, powerful voice soars and throbs with utter conviction. Noga becomes her music; her performance is as natural as breathing.
And this is her message; share your vulnerability and good things will happen… As she and her band (she tells us she has tried to “squeeze most of the musicians on the stage that are on the new album”) play Encounter, Noga implores us to ponder; “How can we allow ourselves to be vulnerable?” There is a combining of cultures here; a soft guitar intro followed by a rich bass guitar riff and light percussion, Hebrew words of diversity; experience sharing; allowing ourselves to be emotionally honest with ourselves and others. This song started as a solo project and Noga tells us the producer Liran (Donin) is here tonight…
Departure is a beautiful, poignant but ultimately uplifting song written about her Grandma’s ‘departure to the heavens’. Before singing, Noga tells her rapt audience of how she dreamt of her Grandmother going into a “psychedelic abyss”… This gentle song begins with a piano riff in a minor key before picking up tempo and being joined by the brass/sax trio. Four voices sing the chorus in a unified harmony. A breathtakingly excellent trumpet solo ensures that all the audience are moving now; hips swaying, heads nodding, feet tapping; we can’t help ourselves. The jazz is infectious, the melodies and musical meanderings swirling invisibly but intoxicatingly around us.
Noga invites her “beautiful sisters” to the front of the stage to join her in the performance of IMA- the title track of her recently released album- a song written for her mother’s 60th birthday, following a devastating diagnosis. Noga tells us that the last few months were ‘wonderful for her… to create… to be a woman, a healer; to take space to create. “
A guitar intro, Spanish classical style starts this ultimately personal song, followed by that ever-catchy bass riff and piano overlaid. There is a yearning here, the pianissimo keys rippling, blue notes abounding then becoming more classical in style. Slowly but insistently, jazz begins to dominate and brushes on cymbals indicate an increasingly experimental, chaotic vibe with clashing, discordant notes. The crescendo develops into an increased intensity, punctuated by Afro beats. Noga’s graceful arms move to the long, soaring, sustained notes and she is communicating with her band and with us, her belief that she can bring harmony to us in the world through her music- and we believe her.
Noga’s vocal conviction, her strong, sultry tone, her versatility of style and ability to connect diversity and intersectionality of sound is what makes her so special. This evening of extraordinary talent, wonderful, ecstatic music and creative vibrancy combined with the sharing of the most tender and intimate storytelling leaves us feeling buoyant, enriched, rejuvenated- and that we belong to Noga’s colourful world of positivity and connection. We believe in her; and in her conviction that the magical power of music can connect us – change us- and transform lives.
Noga Ritter album launch was at THE FORGE Camden – June 12th 2023
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