Kora, Live at Barfly Birmingham


Kora are an AMAZING live act. Their gig last night last night at Barfly in Birmingham was like taking a journey home to NZ for a couple of hours, and the Kora brothers (yes, 80% of them are from the same family) were good company on that trip.

Having raved too much in the postgrad common room about New Zealand music, I had persuaded a classmate from Chile to come along to get “a taste of kiwi”.

When I last saw Kora play in New Zealand (at least 3 years ago), they were a solid reggae band from Whakatane with a few good songs. They’ve matured since then into a world-class live act. Their show is watertight, full of energy and good-natured.

Kora’s music has now pushed far beyond their easy-skanking origins. Apart from Brad behind the drums, the other 3 brothers and Dan Mcgruer swap instruments with alarming regularity (guitars/bass/Nord/sequencers/mixers), as well as sharing vocal duties.

Electronic bleeps and bloops in the mix hint at dark drum’n’bass moments (shades of another kiwi act, Shapeshifter, but with more soul). And at times the guitars march heroically towards metal.

The crowd at Barfly was small but enthusiastic – and happily it wasn’t all New Zealanders. I’d agree with Andrew (he saw them last year in Brum) who suggested that they’d work much better in a more intimate venue than Barfly like the Hare and Hounds. although the band did a fine job with the space and the crowd they were given.

A strange thing about being a New Zealander… you feel more like a kiwi when you no longer live in your home country. There’s something about roots/reggae/dub that (at least for me) speaks deeply of our landscape and people, a sense made all the more poignant 12,000 miles from home. Hearing Kora was like tapping back into those island origins.

We had a great night. Afterwards, my classmate from Chile summed it up in one word: “indescribable“.

Next time Kora is playing in your town, GO AND HEAR THEM. They are truly awesome.

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