3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The Kamanga Kings, a Khartoum jazz band have been disbanded for a long time, and not all of the original seven members are still alive. One of those members was Rushdy’s late father, whose brother, Maher, also played in the band too. He was an old man now and he liked his routines, one of which was to check his mailbox each week. It was normally empty, until one day he received a letter from America.

It was from the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. The Kamanga Kings were being invited to travel to America and perform at the annual festival of world music. Rushdy’s uncle sighed at the news and said it would be impossible for them to go. Rushdy has other ideas though, he feels he is in a dead-end job and that having an opportunity to see another part of the world is too good a chance to miss.

He decides to have a go at reviving the band with the help of his slightly unreliable friend, Hisham and after persuading Alkanary, another original member they advertise for new members. They are inundated with potential musicians who have a wide range of musical skills, but they eventually manage to select a new line-up. A businessman offers to help fund them and act as their manager. They are on the way to America.

America is an alien place compared to Khartoum, full of bright lights and strange sights. After they get through the tough immigration, they make it to the hotel. In no time at all it is time to play the venue but before they can bask in the praise they realise that their manager has taken the money they are due and disappeared. Rather than feel sorry for themselves Rushdy wants to go after him, but before he knows it, all the band members want to come too. They escape from the hotel and before they know it they are wanted by the immigration authorities and the FBI…

It was about the music, about excavating a spirit had been buried for decades, something that we each had carried within us all these years as a longing.

This was an unsolicited copy that I was fortunate enough to receive from the publisher. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be my sort of thing at first, I don’t read that much fiction for one thing and when I do, this is not going to be very high on the list of books that I would have selected. That said, I actually enjoyed this. I thought it was a genuinely heartwarming tale that made me laugh as much as it did make me feel for the characters. Give it a go, you might like it!

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