17.15pm – Friday afternoon at the Barbican and the concrete corridors of one of London’s premier music venues are largely empty. There are still several hours until the evening’s concert and an air of meticulous industry prevails. Sound engineers, PR people and Barbican staff are scurrying around making final preparations. In the foyer outside the auditorium, an almighty bassline reverberates off the walls as support act Dub Colossus run through their final soundcheck.In the main hall, the stars of the show are warming up. Mulatu Astatqé, Mahmoud
19.10 – In the café before the concert, there’s a visible sign of relief on tour manager Jason Walsh’s face. It’s been tough getting all 14 musicians over from Ethiopia and the US. Visa issues, plus rumours of inner feuding between Ethiopian band members, haven’t helped. But everyone has managed to make it over for the two-day mini tour starting at the Barbican and culminating headlining Glastonbury’s JazzWorld stage on Saturday night. It’s the first time all of the musicians have played together. The Barbican concert is a massive success. The acoustics give a warmth and intensity to the music. The gig is a sell-out and a ripple of applause sweeps the hall as Either/Orchestra, with Astatqé on vibraphone, open with ‘Yèkermo Sèw’ , featured in the recent Jim Jarmusch film starring Bill Murray, Broken Flowers.The stage lighting throws up deep oranges, blues and purples that form patterns on the glinting brass of the saxophones. Astatqé’s performance is followed by Eshèté, who air kicks and shimmies his way about the stage. Next up is Mèkurya who walks through the crowd, playing his sax whilst tracked by a spotlight. He’s dressed in an impressive, multicoloured cape and headgear, wiggling his shoulders with the music. Mahmoud Ahmed finishes things off before a finale featuring all the musicians. When the gig ends, the crowd implores the musicians to play on.