To cut a long story short, if you were to take a short step sideways out of the mess that is the modern popular music scene, you may just come across the seriously under-hyped O DUO percussion duo, formed in 2000 and comprising two Royal College of Music graduate scholars Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox. I have to confess that the word percussion doesn’t really get me going; it reminds me of having to clip clop together two half coconut shells in time to Kumbaya, as I was repeatedly made to do at primary school.
However, O DUO are startling performers, brimming with energy, pizzazz and a gut-wrenchingly obscene amount of talent. Without a coconut shell in sight, O DUO put their skill to work on some serious-looking kit, including two Marimbas (imagine the xylophone‘s bigger, sophisticated, complex cousin) which the two Os explained were incredibly expensive, exquisitely crafted instruments. They perform a multifarious portfolio of pieces, from the fizzing Bongo Fury composed by the duo themselves, through works by Chopin and J.S. Bach and to the very cool jazz classic Take Five. Each is performed with fierce skill and contagious enjoyment. It’s hard not to smile the whole way through the show.
If their musical talent wasn’t enough, Owen and Olly are top-notch all-round entertainers. They’re nifty on their feet for a start; percussion is an extremely physical art, requiring the musician to use his whole body and often to dart from instrument to instrument. The two Os often choreograph their performance to great, sometimes comical, effect. The two are very very funny, littering the show with hilarious anecdotes and quick-witted remarks. They’re also keen to fully engage the audience in their art, explaining the history of the instruments and pieces they perform in a clear, accessible way.
My one criticism of Duo would be their outfits. Because Owen and Olly are so fresh and vibrant, it didn’t seem right for them to be dressed in matching black shirts and trousers; it is as though the ‘classical music’ tag is forcing them to maintain a little bit of sobriety. These dudes are young, cool and effervescent; they should be brought to the fore in full Technicolor glory.