Kokoroko at The Wardrobe, Leeds

On Saturday, eight-piece jazz outfit Kokoroko returned to The Wardrobe in Leeds as part of the first ever UK tour. Having gained a huge following since their inception, we headed down to the sellout performance to find out first hand what all the fuss was about.

Review and Photos by Graeme Smith

If I had to describe Kokoroko in three phrases, they would be: percussive rhythms, virtuoso solos and dancing (with an emphasis on the last!) It’s rare to see a whole venue boogieing down to a live performance in a UK venue, even those at the back, but at The Wardrobe on Saturday, Kokoroko managed to incite just that.

As a jazz act, the performance focused mainly on improvised solos so, although they played tracks of their recent self-titled EP, the songs on the night were variants of the recording, recognisable yet fresh for the audience. Having opened the set with a cover of Fela Kuti’s Colonial Mentality, a big cheer went up for their first original of the night: Uman.

By that point, the audience were enraptured by the band’s trance-inducing rhythms. There truly was something of a carnival atmosphere inside the intimate, basement venue. By the time Kokoroko closed the set with Carry Me Home, there was a bloodlust in the room for more music. The band duly obliged with an encore, their second cover of the night, Pat Thomas’s Gyae Su.

It’s easy to see why Kokoroko have amassed the following they have, and why they’re selling out shows around the world. Their music is feelgood and speaks to our universal desire to move our bodies in rhythm. Hopefully they’ll return to Yorkshire soon so you can find out for yourselves.

Kokoroko played at The Wardrobe, Leeds on Saturday 1 February 2020.