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The Sun reviews Singing in the Rainforest

​A joyful performance of Kinky Afro was TV GOLD, writes Ally Ross

SHAUN RYDER was adamant. Or, at least, as adamant as a man with his chemical history can be.

“I definitely know the Embera tribe have never heard Kinky Afro played live in their village before.

“Unless I was on some really heavy drugs. And that is possible, but . . .”

But torture yourself no further, Shaun. You had me at “Embera tribe”, the gentle Panamanian jungle folk who
played hosts to his band, The Happy Mondays, and the finest game of Monkey Tennis ever seen on British television.

A show called Singing In The Rainforest, broadcast last night, on Watch TV.

It was obvious, from the moment we saw six baffled Mancs in a wooden canoe, The Happy Mondays’ trip to Panama was of a different calibre from everything else on television this week. As anyone who saw Shaun on I’m A Celeb or Ghosthunting With The Happy Mondays will confirm, they also have a natural gift for this type of show that’s born of their attitude and refusal to play any of television’s usual tearful games.

Truth be told, though, things got off to a bit of an awkward start on Singing In The Rainforest. Introductions were hardly of the “Dr Livingstone I presume?” variety (“Yeah, Bez, nice”) and there were a few local details that didn’t stack up as well. The telephone box in the middle of the rainforest, for starters. And the electricity supply, which powered 85 pieces of musical equipment. And the fact that, not to put too fine a point on it, this central American tribe, of hunter-gatherers, were looking a bit more like 24-hour portly people.

I’m prepared to overlook all these misgivings, though, because, after 13 minutes of awkwardness, the tribe assembled to hear The Happy Mondays play Kinky Afro. And went collectively nuts. Not politely nuts, you understand. But authentically, invade-the-stage, nick Bez’s deerstalker hat and join in…NUTS.

Shaun later described the experience as “Like Apocalypse Now, without the acid.” Which was good, but didn’t quite do justice to a version of Kinky Afro that will become part of television folklore. In fact, even if nothing else had happened, it would still make it an outside contender for Best Documentary of 2015.

That’s the thing about this episode of Singing In The Rainforest, though. It did happen. The Manc and Embera tribes bonded, in ways the channel probably never dared imagine. Most of the men made a bee-line for drummer Gaz Whelan, naturally, while the women all flocked around backing singer Rowetta and the village nutter immediately attached himself to Bez.

Indeed he grew so attached to his strange new friend, with the maracas, that he took him hunting for an Agouti rat, which Bez thought tasted “like kebab”.

Perhaps surprisingly, the only one who didn’t really throw himself into the process was Shaun, a solitary creature, who was “missing Manchester’s rain and fog” and having a very noisy case of writer’s block, up in his tree hut.

“Ooh la laaa, Panama.

“Say oh la-laaaaaah.

“Ah fooking fooked it to Panama.”

It’s what happens, I suppose, when you try to rhyme Panama with canoe. And, I’ll be honest, I worried, like Gaz Whelan, that the finale’s musical collaboration would be: “A train crash.”

The forest gods must have been smiling on them, though, because the final jam was every bit as brilliant, joyful and funny as the version of Kinky Afro and came with the added bonus of Bez, goofing around in a ceremonial parrot hat.

There were no meaningful lectures or tears or grand gestures afterwards, either. In the sincerest way he knows, Shaun merely handed them a packet of Werther’s Originals, said “Thanks for ’avin oos,” got in his canoe and left. So, please, just watch the repeat, Saturday, Watch TV, 8pm.

It’s a wonderful hour of television.

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