The trembling reverb added to Beldina Odenyo Onassis’ authoritative vocal and electric guitar is layered hypnotically thick, but not so much as to mask the Heir of the Cursed performer’s precise control over the dynamics of both her voice and instrument.
Onassis’ songwriting features a hymnal yet candid lyrical turn that occasionally recalls that of King Creosote at his most thoughtful and vulnerable, and that finds the singer reflecting upon her upbringing in Dumfriesshire before moving to Glasgow.
Onassis is emerging as a distinctive and distinguished figure on the current musical landscape of Scotland, and – under Heir of the Cursed alias – she is showing every sign of becoming a significant cultural force here.
Kobi Onyame’s three-piece backline of drums, keyboard and trumpet offers the singer an elegant and spirited musical palette from which to arrange his arresting stage presentation. The trumpet frequently takes the lead instrumental lines, adding just a pinch of Two-Tone flavour to the band’s appetising recipe, while the keys contribute a selection-box of accompaniments from jazzy electric piano figures to deep dub bass pads. Behind them, the industrious drummer peppers the relentless beats with a constant yet judiciously measured volley of fills and rolls.
The poise and confidence Onyame has in his work and performance leaves little doubt as to why he caught the attention of last year’s SAY Award panel, and his live set allows the artist to express more of the Highlife influence he’s absorbed into his music, gleaned from his Ghanaian heritage, as found on his SAY-shortlisted album Gold.
A semi-cover of Fela Kuti’s Demo Crazy – rechristened DMCRZY and enhanced with ferocious rap verses – gives Onyame the chance to incite a round of call-and-response participation from the audience, as they enthusiastically follow his commands to raise their hands in the air and repeat the song’s “demo crazy make us crazy” hook back to him. Later, after a little coaching, he even has them elatedly making “choo-choo” train noises to accompany the syncopated polyrhythms on the title track from Gold.
Onyame’s command of both his craft and the audience, along with the snowballing attention he’s currently gathering, will undoubtedly see him filling larger rooms than this before very much longer. Nevertheless, the team at the Fruitmarket Gallery should be commended for having the vision to put the spaces they have available to use to curate more than simply the traditional exhibition of visual arts they’re known for. The gallery have demonstrated a desperately-needed commitment to Edinburgh’s beleaguered live music ecosystem, with a promise to showcase ever more emerging talent in future in the spaces they have available; which, for the city’s arts and music community, coupled with the Gallery’s plans to expand over the next year, is both an exciting proposition and a gratefully-felt relief.
Photo courtesy of Chris Scott.