Gypsy jazz quintet Les Doigts de l’Homme (the fingers of man) started their set at Zula Bar with a rather chilled touch that got livelier with each successive song. A stage decorated with cheap looking Christmas tree lights, plastic flowers and esoteric sarongs set the mood for caravan life and with Olivier Kikteff, Tanguy Blum, Yannick Alocer and Benoit Convert’s fast-paced plucking the audience was transported into an imaginary world. The sunbeams of the east could almost be felt through the smokey club air, which smoothly morphed into the dust wound up by dreamy bejewelled women with long skirts, who danced to attract the admiration of rugged, dark-eyed men.
This was Balkan music at its most vividly persuading. Strongly influenced by Django Reinhardt, inventor of the jazz guitar technique that has become a living tradition in the French Gypsy culture, the music of Les Doigts de l’Homme is comprised of sweet-sounding plucks that occasionally gave way to dramatic rhythm guitar races.
Les Doigts de l’Homme demonstrated how their tunes can be divided into various levels of velocity and Olivier Kikteff, who spent some time in Burkina Faso, seemed convinced that people in Africa were very skilled in adapting to rhythms. The concert-goers at Zula Bar supported his assumptions. Although sporadic at times, the audience was swinging, swaying and openly displaying their admiration for a genre full of balanced highs and lows, with rhythms rarely performed live in South Africa.
Zula Bar’s well-attended upper stage couldn’t get enough of it. When the lights went off and the dapper gentlemen left the stage everyone was begging for more. Encouraged to try harder, we did so, and got the result we were after: the four of them reassumed their positions and whipped out a tune that was faster than anything they played before, likewise whipping the audience into a last frenzy of delight.
Les Doigts de l’Homme provide more than just music: this is a band that bans negative thoughts from your mind, keeps you on your toes and serves as a healthy substitute for the most addictive drug.
Les Doigts de l’Homme performed at Zula Bar in Long Street on 8 August 2012.