Oka Vanga

Venue: Bracknell Folk Club
Town: Windlesham
Date: 01/12/15
Website: okavanga.com

Afraid I don't know the reason why Bracknell Folk Club is actually in Windlesham and not Bracknell. Only been there once before, because they meet on a weekday, and it's always hard to get up to go to work the next day, but I was really quite keen to go there to see Oka Vanga.

Arrived early because, having been there before, I was aware that the room was not huge, and didn't want to run the risk of not being able to get in. Will Cox and Angie Meyer were already there, setting up. I was really amazed that not only did Will recognise me - we had only met once before at a gig in Farncombe in April 2014 - but he remembered where it was he'd seen me. In a year and a half he has probably performed before thousands of people, so his memory must be phenomenal. Always wondered how musicians are able to remember how to play so many songs. Guess they are just wired differently to mere mortals like me.

Was really chuffed to overhear someone in the audience comment whilst we were waiting that they had come along that night because they'd googled the name Oka Vanga and read such a positive review on Fatea that they wanted to see them for themselves.

Glad I got there early, because not only was the room packed with people, it was also packed with instruments, as like many a folk club, Bracknell invite locals up to do a song or two before each half of the main act. Trouble is, there was a lot of talent in the audience, so there were quite a lot of floor spots, all of which were very good, but they did reduce the amount of time left for Oka Vanga to play.

Although it is just over a year since I saw them last, they have changed quite dramatically in the interim. When I saw them last, I was hugely impressed with how chilled Angie appeared to be whilst she was playing. Her guitar seemed to generate exquisitely complex music whilst she just sat there, channelling the music from another dimension, in a zen like trance. Now, both she and Will still produce the same exquisitely complex music, but Angie is much more animated. I have to admit that even though I loved her chilled approach, a foot-tapping Angie is much more engaging to a folk audience.

Previously, Will had appeared that every note that he played had been torn painfully from his soul, but he too now seemed much more relaxed, and even induced the audience to clap along.

The biggest change though, was that previously they were purely an instrumental duo, but apparently they had had difficulties getting bookings as many folk club organisers felt that the most folk club attendees would get bored without words. Luckily they had another string to their bow, and Angie now sings as well.

Yes, they still play instrumentals and yes, they are still writing them, as demonstrated by their remarkable track "Out Of The Shadows", the most uplifting piece of music about plague you are ever likely to hear. But now, in addition, they are playing songs with vocals as well, so I think they really do now provide something for everybody.

Much of their material is their own, but they do play the odd cover, most notably Sandy Denny's "Like An Old Fashioned Waltz", and their encore, Mason Williams' "Classical Gas". Being a fan of the Strawbs (Sandy Denny's first band), I was really impressed with the Sandy cover. The original was accompanied by piano and strings, but their guitars and Angie's voice made this every bit as good. Makes you wonder why Angie took so long to unveil her voice.

But now that she has found it, Oka Vanga deserve to play some much bigger venues than the back room in a pub in Windlesham. Hopefully next time I review them they'll will have been playing the Albert Hall.

Set List

Throw Your Ashes Down
She Moves Through The Fair
Beyond This Life (Rowland's Song)
Sea Bound
The Cliffs Of Moher/ Out On The Ocean
Fox On The Run
Bimini Gal
No Other Way

Beneath The Southern Sky
Till The End (Emmott's Song)
Out Of The Shadows
Travelling Song
My Sweet Guitar
Black Smoke Rising/ Foggy Mountain
Running For Water
Abounding Grace
Like An Old-Fashioned Waltz
Pilgim's Rest

Classical Gas

Pete Bradley

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