Minyo Crusaders & Souad Massi at the Jazz Cafe

Posted on November 29, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Minyo Crusaders


It has been many years since I last visited Jazz Cafe in Camden. In recent years, I tend to go to 'proper' concerts at the Barbican and South Bank where I would sit quite still for hours. I think I have almost forgotten the joy of standing (and dancing) at a concert. Yet in November, I went to Jazz Cafe twice to see the Japanese folk band Minyo Crusaders, and Algerian Berber singer and guitarist Souad Massi.

I have not heard of Minyo Crusaders before, but I was intrigued when I found out that they rework traditional Japanese folk songs (minyo) with Latin, African and Caribbean rhythms to create inventive music. The band launched their debut album “Echoes of Japan” in 2017 (and reissued in 2019) and has since gain fans from around the world.


Minyo Crusaders

Minyo Crusaders   Minyo Crusaders


The 10-piece group was co-founded by Katsumi Tanaka and Freddie Tsukamoto, with the goal of reviving minyō as a 'music for the people'. There is a retro feel to the band, but at the same time, it also feels refreshing and unique.

The history of minyō can be traced back centuries and it has been passed down for generations in villages and rural communities. Often accompanied by dancing, minyō usually portrays a local story or scenery, and it is played during neighborhood festivals and other communal gatherings. By experimenting and fusing with Latin, jazz and other forms of contemporary music, Minyo Crusaders has successfully revived 'old-fashioned' minyō into something cool and distinctive.

Honestly, I have not had so much fun at a concert for ages. The atmosphere was lively and vivacious, and the audience clearly loved the catchy tunes. Everyone was dancing away, and none of us wanted the night to end. I highly recommend seeing them live, because they are fantastic on stage, and you are likely to love them more after the concert.



Less than 2 weeks later, I returned to Jazz cafe to see Algerian Berber singer, songwriter and guitarist Souad Massi. Souad has been active since the late 80s, and regularly performs in the UK (since she resides in Paris). I have been to her concert at the Barbican a few years ago, but compare to the music hall at Barbican, the smaller and more intimate setting at Jazz Cafe enables the audience to get closer to the stage and performers. Thus, the experience was more memorable and compelling. Distance, in this case, matters.


Souad Massi


Like Minyo Crusaders, Souad Massi likes to incorporate different genres into her music, including rock, country, fado, oriental, and Algerian folk... meanwhile, she also sings in Arabic, French, English and Berber – she truly is a world music artist. Often, the lyrics of Souad's songs contain political messages, which resulted in her fleeing Algeria to Paris when the political messages of her band Atakor attracted death threats.


Souad Massi

Souad Massi

Souad Massi


At Jazz cafe, Souad performed songs from her 6th and newest album Oumniya, featuring themes on Algeria, politics, love, freedom and emancipation – topics that matter to her and many others. As much as I like listening to Souad on CD or Spotify, it still lacks the impact of her live performances, accompanied by her brilliant band.

After the two fantastic concerts, I can't wait to return to Jazz Cafe again for more music from different parts of the world.


Here is a short clip of the concert recorded by Julian Evenden.

This post was posted in London, Music & Sound, Anything Japanese and was tagged with London, music, concert, Minyo Crusaders, Souad Massi, Jazz cafe, folk music, world music