Sampa The Great @ Belgrave Music Hall 15/11/19

When a songwriting visionary like Sampa the Great stumbles upon your Northern nook all the way from Australia, David Ball thought it only right to go along and see how her new album The Return sounded in all it’s live glory.

Before getting behind the keys as a part of Sampa the Great’s band, Silentjay opened the show with a DJ set, establishing the tone for the upbeat performance that was soon to come. Accompanied by a trio of backup singers, live drums and the aforementioned producer, Sampa’s sold out show was her first stop in the UK as part of her Revenge tour.

Digital shot by David Ball

She began with an introductory version of her latest album’s final track ‘Final Form’ before enveloping the crowd with more melodic tracks like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Energy’. Here, she demonstrated her dexterity in being able to shift seamlessly between vocals and rap, a feature which distinguishes The Return from her previous releases. She slowed down the session with the tracks ‘Leading Us Home’ and ‘Flowers’, before performing a track titled ‘BGM’ from Wale’s new album Wow… That’s Crazy. Much like Wale’s album, Sampa’s Return tackles black female empowerment, along with issues of whitewashing and exploitation of black musical talent in the industry. Her commanding message was paralleled by commanding drums which persisted throughout her performance, particularly in her live version of ‘Rhymes To The East’. 

Her set ended as it began with ‘Final Form’, a track which exhibits her movement toward complete artistic and personal development. In doing so, she puts forwards her authentic self, displaying her Southern African identity in through music, audio visuals, performance, which underline her campaign to carve out her own artistic space and process. 

Sampa’s performance, and album, are one in themselves. Much like she does in The Return, she coveys a powerful message in a powerful way on stage, working in perfect harmony with her close-knit band of talented musicians to produce a thought provoking and soul inspiring show.