Nigerian Afrobeat: Raw and Remixed

Lekan Babalola

Songs of Icon (Mr Bongo, 2006)

In recent years Afrobeat has become popular in North American, with large multiethnic jam bands inspired by the seductive Nigerian beats of Fela Kuti. If you want to experience current Nigerian-style Afrobeat, listen to this terrific CD, Songs of Icon, by master drummer Lekan Babalola. Backed by a killer band formed by a a powerful brass section, elaborate choruses, emotive piano and kickin’ guitar.

Babalola’s music combines the magic of Afrobeat jamming with Yoruban sacred chants, jazz improvisation and spectacular percussion solos. But not all of the music is fiery dance music. Babalola also treats the listener with quieter, thoughtful moments inducing a trance-like atmosphere.

Songs of Icon is a double CD. The first CD features Babalola playing his sizzling music, exploring Yoruba music, jazz and the Yoruba Diaspora in the form of Cuban batá drums and Brazilian percussion. 

Disc 2 are remixes by well known dance remixers from the UK and France. They add a combination of electronic beats, hip hop influences and acid jazz. While I prefer the original versions better than the remixes, some of the remixes are great, like the intense "Oya" (Brazilian Beats Le Pico Remix), the contagious disco beats of "Kabioye" (Phil Asher’s Restless Soul Remix) and the chillout version of "Oya."

Buy Songs of Icon.