"A lovely fusion of sound"
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 30/08/14

Camden has long been the place to go if you’re looking for London at its most diverse, a prime example of what makes the city so vibrant. It’s very appropriate, then, that this was the location for world music band Khiyo to launch their debut album. Self-titled, the album fuses together traditional Bengali music with a modern Western sound, with jazz, blues and even rock influences.

The Forge is a very intimate venue, which made it perfect for this live gig. Even before it started, seeing the instruments sitting alone on stage painted an interesting picture – guitars, drums and a piano rest alongside a viola and a tabla. It’s a sign of something different and altogether more interesting.

And the gig is certainly interesting – as much as it is a promotion of the band’s album, it also serves as a lesson in history, culture and society. From a beautiful (albeit controversial) rendition of the Bangladeshi national anthem to adaptations of philosophical poetry, it’s a wonderful journey that encapsulates what Bangladesh means to it’s citizens.

At the heart of it all is Sohini Alam: vocalist, songwriter and, for those not familiar with the language, the way in to Khiyo. She has a delightfully warm presence on stage, as comfortable talking to the audience as she is hitting those high notes. Though born in London, Sohini lived in Bangladesh for seven years, and that love for her roots shines through in her performance. For those like me who cannot speak a word of Bengali, it was up to Sohini to explain the songs and their cultural significance, and she does so with lots of passion and nostalgia.

But as important as Sohini is, Khiyo would not be possible without the rest of the band. What sets Khiyo apart is that, other than the Bengali vocals, it relies solely on a Western sound. There are strong folk and jazz influences, and I especially loved how the viola was incorporated. While Sohini is the soul of the band, fellow Khiyo founder Ollie clearly comes across as the glue. You can visibly see him orchestrating the performance, focusing not only on himself but the rest of the band. The two work brilliantly well together, and are clearly the key to the success of the album and how the band develops going forward.

The main obstacle this band will get is from people who can’t speak Bengali. The music is great, and Sohini’s voice is intoxicating whether you understand her or not; but without her to guide you through the meaning of the songs, it could be a bit alienating to the general music fan.

As it stands, though, Khiyo have really impressed me with both the quality of their debut album and their live performance, and I encourage everyone reading this to give them a chance too.

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