Tag Archives: Afrobeat

Elikeh: A Journey Between 2 Worlds

Elikeh – Photo by John Shore

“Between 2 Worlds” is the second CD release for Elikeh (Azalea City Recordings; released 2012). They are a big band based in Washington, D.C. who are best heard live. Imagine the punch of James Brown’s horns combined with the melodic guitar of Afrobeat and you would not go far wrong. Comprised of drums, percussion, two lead guitars, bass, two sax, trumpet and keyboards, their stage presence can enliven a sleepy crowd and get everyone on the dance floor.

This CD does an excellent job of capturing the band’s live sound and their versatility as performers: with a bass section that has the flexibility to encompass Togolese rhythms and funk in one heartbeat.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Massama Dogo, their leader, about this latest release. When I asked him about the difference between this CD and the first, Massama, on lead vocals and guitar, explains, “On the first CD, we recorded different sections of musicians to make one track, here we recorded each track all together live in the studio.” Massama always wants to learn, “I seek inspiration from all the band members. We all come from different places and developed skills in different genres, rock, soul, yet I like to learn where I can. I learn from Frank Martins (lead guitar) and Clayton Englar (sax) who are both veterans.”

Elikeh – Between 2 Worlds

The CD starts with “No Vision” a slow, languorous track that uses a delicate guitar sound, but then builds in energy to the upbeat, highly danceable “Olesafrica” (an Osibisa cover). Here the music takes off as the chant of “Olesafrica” is interspersed between the lyrics and carries the music forward. The drummer opens up and flies with an intricate and hypnotic solo. It is with the fast, high energy songs such as this one that Elikeh excels. The lead guitar stretches out and space is made for a good rock improvisation. Massama’s deep, heartfelt voice adds to the quality of the music. Throughout this album Massama’s authentic, determined and sometimes frustrated voice compels the listener to pay attention.

Massama is impassioned about justice and this comes across in his lyrics. He says, “Injustice has been around since before I started to play music. To fight injustice is a part of my heart so it is natural that it be in the music.”

The music is helped this time by guest appearances from two great musicians, Vieux Farke Touré and John Kadlecik. Vieux originates from the Malian blues tradition, his father was the renowned musician Ali Farka Touré, while John comes from the American rock tradition. When asked about the experience of working with Vieux, Massama relates, “We opened for him in Washington, D.C., and ever since then, we became friends. When we found out he would record with us the band were jumping up and down like kids with excitement.”

This friendship can be felt on the track “Alonye.” Here Vieux’s bluesy guitar riffs fit right into the upbeat swing of the band. Vieux’s blues bring a soulful feeling to the music. Rather than taking over though, he has the understanding and sensibility to work right alongside the band with his guitar. On “Alonye” Vieux’s guitar in part echoes and corresponds with Massama’s deep and direct vocals, as if both are enjoying and thriving from the connection.

When I asked Massama about his hopes for the future of the group, he says: “Right now we are a regional band, I am hoping we will get more national gigs and little by little I want us to become international.”

With “Between 2 Worlds” Elikeh have finally arrived. A hard working and disciplined band, they deserve more space in the spotlight.

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Ebo Taylor’s Lost Nigeria Sessions Released for the First Time

Ebo Taylor – Palaver

Ebo Taylor – Palaver (Tabansi Records/ BBE Music, 2019)

Palaver contains five tracks recorded in Nigeria in 1980 by famed Ghanaian guitarist and composer Ebo Taylor. The material consists of irresistible songs that mix highlife, Afrobeat, funk and jazz. The EP showcases Taylor’s characteristic electric guitar style, along with a superb set of musicians, comprising George Amissah. Mat Hammond, George Kennedy and George Abunuah.

Ghanaian guitarist Ebo Taylor was one of the leading highlife musicians in the 1950s with ensembles such as Broadway Dance Band and Stargazers and continued during the following decades making remarkable highlife and Afrobeat recordings in Ghana and Nigeria.

This video sums up the historical context of the recordings:

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The Remarkable Nigerian Guitar and Beats of Toby Foyeh and his Orchestra

Toby Foyeh and his Orchestra – Pirates of Africa

Toby Foyeh and his Orchestra – Pirates of Africa (Kameleon Afrika Music, 2019)

Nigerian world traveler Toby Foyeh is an excellent guitarist, charismatic vocalist and band leader. After living in Nigeria and the UK, he is currently based in the United States where he put together a formidable band that performs irresistible Nigerian-rooted music.

Pirates of Africa is the new album from Toby Foyeh and his orchestra. It is a superb set of Nigerian styles such as Afrobeat, traditional Yoruba rhythms and call and response vocals, highlife, and palm wine combined with funk, jazz, rock, pop and Latin American music. Additionally, he treats the listener to memorable electric guitar work.

The lineup on Pirates of Africa includes Tony Foyeh on male lead vocals, backing vocals, lead guitars, flute and percussion; Frank Martins on rhythm guitars; Samuel Ebidighi on bass and backing vocals; Koby Adopoku Maxwell on bass; Femi Sanya on bass and percussion; Oscar Debe on drums and percussion; Tosin Aribisala on drums; Jojo Kuo on drums and percussion; Jerrol Pennerman on keyboards; JB Gnonlonfoun on keyboards; Dennis Ayandiran on talking drums and percussiin; Samuel Salawu on talking drums; Michael Baiyewu on percussion, batá drums, sakara, wood block; and Tari Nosika, Tolumide Yeboah, Gloria Osaghae, Lola Okusanmi, Feyi Okusanmi, Ronke Coker, Shafi Bello, Dele Odunaiya and Amaka Igbonezim on vocals.

Get previews and buy the album from kameleonafricamusic.com

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Artist Profiles: Osibisa

Osibisa

Osibisa exploded onto the music world in 1971 with a pulsating and vibrant sound. Translated from Ghanaian, Osibisa means “criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness”. Their innovative music style matched the exciting progressive rock scene of the era. Osibisa’s albums featured fantasy artwork by Roger Dean, an artist connected to some of the most iconic progressive rock album covers.

The band’s percussive influence began to manifest itself within the music of their contemporaries. The Osibisa poly-rhythms and percussive breaks were to be an integral feature of the disco boom that was to follow in the late 1970s. Their unique fusion of Africa, Caribbean, rock, jazz, Latin and R&B paved the way for other potent music force such as Bob Marley and the emergence of African music in the 80’s. Indeed, Osibisa are seen by many as the Godfathers of World Music.

One of the important reasons for Osibisa’s enduring success has been their highly energetic and extravagant stage show. However their music is still an influential factor in dance music of today with no fewer than a dozen covers of “Sunshine Day”, which was also used for the Euro 2000 football tournament.

For many years now, they toured tirelessly, headlining numerous festivals and performing in every far-flung comer of the globe. Highlights have included a major tour of India, which resulted in a No 1 Gold Album – an unprecedented achievement for a Western band. The mid 90′ s saw a re-emergence of Osibisa in North America where African and Reggae music are gaining in popularity. The band also had a cameo in the Ken Russell TV film about Cropready Festival in Oxford during this time.

Former President Jerry J Rawlings honored Osibisa in Ghana, where they played a series of concerts celebrating their homecoming. “The enthusiasm shown by the Ghanaian people, especially the youth was quite amazing” recalled Teddy Osei, Osibisa’s bandleader. United Kingdom Europe

Discography:

Osibisa (MCA Records, 1971)
Woyaya (MCA Records, 1971)
Heads (MCA Records, 1972)
Super Fly T.N.T. soundtrack (Buddah Records, 1973)
Happy Children (Warner Bros. Records, 1973)
Osibirock (Warner Bros. Records, 1974)
Welcome Home (Island Records, 1975)
Ojah Awake (Bronze, 1976)
Black Magic Night (Bronze, 1977)
Mystic Energy (Calibre, 1980)
Celebration (Celluloid, 1980)
Osibisa Like’s Live ‎(Multi-Sound, 1981)
Unleashed-live (Magnet, 1982)
Live At The Marquee (Celluloid, 1983)
Movements (in-akustik, 1989)
African Criss Cross (Pulsar, 1990)
Monsore (Red Steel Music, 1996)
Live At Cropredy ‎(Red Steel Music, 1998)
Aka Kakra – Acoustic ‎(Red Steel Music, 2001)
African Dawn, African Flight (Red Steel Music, 2003)
Wango Wango, compilation (2003)
Osee Yee ‎(Cadiz Music, 2009)
Osibisa Afro Mix ‎(Gonzo Multimedia, 2016)
Osibisa Tribal ‎(Gonzo Multimedia, 2016)

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The Seductive Burkinabe Beats of Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band


Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band – Siri Ba Kele (Sublime Frequencies, 2018)

Siri Ba Kele is the second album by Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band, a formidable band from Burkina Faso. Baba Commandant (Mamadou Sanou) and his colleagues play music rooted in Manding traditions with a modern edge, incorporating Afrobeat, rock guitars and funk.

Siri Ba Kele contains a set of powerful songs with charismatic vocals, irresistible rhythms, hypnotic balaphone, outstanding electric guitar work, and equally good doso ngoni performances.

The lineup on Siri Ba Kele includes Baba Commandant on vocals and doso ngoni; Issouf Diabate on guitar; Massibo Taragna on bass; Mohamed Sana on drums; and Sami Kimpe on balaphone.

The album is available on CD, vinyl and digital formats.

Buy Siri Ba Kele in North America

Buy Siri Ba Kele in Europe

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Artist Profiles: Dele Sosimi

Dele Sosimi

Dele Sosimi is a British-Nigerian musician born February 22, 1963 in London, England.

Dele Sosimi stands out as one of the most active musicians currently on the Afrobeat scene worldwide. Dele’s career began when he joined Fela’s Anikulapo-Kuti’s Egypt 80 (1979-1986) and then subsequently with Fela’s son Femi Anikulapo-Kuti’s Positive Force (1986-1994). In both bands he was musical director and keyboard player.

Since Fela created Afrobeat, Dele’s Afrobeat pedigreee is therefore impeccable. The music is a blend of complex but highly danceable funk grooves, Nigerian traditional music (including hi-life), African percussion, underpinning the jazz horns and solos from other instruments, as well as rhythmical singing.

Dele toured extensively around the world with Fela and Femi, re-orchestrating and arranging music and also handling the recruiting and training of new musicians. His keyboard work can be heard on Fela’s Power Show, Original Sufferhead, MOP 1 (Movement of the People), Authority Stealing, Army Arrangeement, ITT (International Thief Thief), and Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, and on Femi’s albums No Cause for Alarm and Mind Your Own Business.

Dele has also performed often with Tony Allen, the king of Afrobeat drumming. Following his first solo album “Turbulent Times” (Eko Star 2002), he was invited to select the tracks for the 3-CD compilation titled “Essential Afrobeat” (Universals Family Recordings, 2004).

He was producer and co-writer of “Calabash Volume 1: Afrobeat Poems” by Ikwunga, the Afrobeat Poet (2004). He is a central member of the Wahala Project, whose single Wahala appears on Puma’s 2006 Soccer World Cup Compilation CD. He has also featured on British rapper TY’s recent album Closer (on the track Sweating for your Salary), and his Turbulent Times is featured on The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (2006).

Currently based in London, Dele is an educator and instructor in Afrobeat (via his Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Foundation, and as a Visiting Lecturer in Music and Media, London Metropolitan University). Sosimi is abetted by a group of musicians, most of whom have either played with him on previous records or have gigged with him on the live circuit.

Discography:

Turbulent Times (Eko Star, 2002)
Identity (Helico Records, 2007)
You No Fit Touch Am (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Lagbaja

Lagbaja

Lagbaja is widely considered to be one of Africa’s most exciting and interesting contemporary artists. Combining sophisticated compositions with a dynamic stage show and enigmatic personality, he was a popular in Nigeria, in constant demand for live performance and ubiquitous on the airwaves. His monthly shows at his own Motherlan’ Niteclub, in the heart of Ikeja – the capital of Lagos state, sold-out well in advance.

Lagbaja – which in the Yoruba language has a simultaneous multiple-translation meaning of “somebody”, “nobody”, “anybody” and “everybody” – has always performed masked. On one level, by never revealing his human identity, Lagbaja represents the common man and the faceless voice of the masses. On yet another level, his elaborate masks and stage costumes link him to the ancient tradition of Egungun: Africa’s ancestral masqueraded spirits, who come out in times of crisis helping to guide the people towards truth and resolution.

Musically speaking, Lagbaja’s sound is unique, incorporating a range of influences from Afrobeat to Highlife, Juju, Pop, Funk and Hip-Hop. Generally his music is identified under the umbrella of Afrobeat, which is one of his major influences. Incorporating contemporary elements such as horns, guitars and keyboards alongside the most traditional of Nigerian instruments (such as Bata and Dundun drums), Lagbaja?’s music spans the generations of African expression.

He has a U.S. CD, We Before Me, on the IndigeDisc/Ryko label.

Discography:

Ikira (1993)
Lagbaja (1993)
C’est Un African Thing ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 1986)
Me (2000)
We ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 2000)
We and Me Part II (2000)
Abami – A Tribute To Fela ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 2000)
Africano ….. the mother of groove ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 2005)
Paradise (2009)
Sharp Sharp (2009)
200 Million Mumu – The Bitter Truth (2012)

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Artist Profiles: Seun Kuti

Seun Kuti

Aftobeat saxophonist and vocalist Seun Anikulapo Kuti has kept the grace, energy and strength of his father Fela Kuti. With Egypt 80’s musicians, Fela’s legendary group, Seun plays live again the most original incarnation of Afrobeat: using the phrases, the solid brass section, the incomparable groove of African percussion and voices.

With an astonishing maturity, Seun leads with tremendous energy his band on stage, playing his father’s repertory as well as his own compositions.

Discography:

Think Africa (2007)
Seun Kuti and Fela’s Egypt 80 (Tôt ou Tard, 2008)
From Africa With Fury: Rise (Knitting Factory Records/Because Music, 2011)
A Long Way To the Beginning (Knitting Factory Records, 2014)
Struggle Sounds, EP (Sony Masterworks, 2016)
Black Times (Strut Records, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Ayetoro

Ayetoro was formed in 1996 by Nigerian Composer and piano player Funsho Ogundipe. This band defines the sound of modern afrobeat.

Ogundipe is a jazz influenced musicians and his compositions and sounds have twice changed peoples perceptions of afrobeat in Nigeria. In 1996, his album Naija Blues was the first to experiment with Afro jazz and Hip hop when he featured Nigerian Film star and former rapper J T West on “J T’s Tale.”

Another defining moment was the critically acclaimed ‘Something Dey,’ a blues based afrobeat tune whose video -apart from being voted among the top 50 Nigerian videos in 1998- featured simple African backgrounds. It set a trend for outside shoots for Nigerian African flavored songs. The video, directed by Ogundipe himself, has clearly set the template for Ayetoro music and visual productions, one of understated posturing, offkey songs and allusive lyrics.

His love of poetry and prose comes out in the lyrics of the band’s single “Naija Blues Part 2,” from the 6000 Miles and a Minute album released in Nigeria in 2004 on his own Ebutte Metta record label. His interesting wordplay sets down visions of modern Nigeria, a place beset by its own challenges and inherent contradictions.

Ogundipe is also a jazz composer of some weight. His harmonies are modern and take afrobeat into uncharted areas. Melodic minor scales are featured on “Becklow Gardens,” a tune he wrote in honor of the block of flats he lived when in West London.

Ayetoro has been able to attract serious musicians in its two incarnations. There are presently two versions of the band. One in London the other in Lagos. Byron Wallen, the Belize / British born trumpet player and composer, is a collaborator in the London ensemble, alongside others like Nick Cohen (bass), Robert Fordjour (drums); while in Lagos, the Cameroonian guitar legend Oscar Ellimbi has played on every Ayetoro release except one.

Discography:

The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. 1 (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat) (2002)
6000 Miles and a Minute (2004)
The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol 2 (Flying Monkey Productions, 2006)
Asoju Oba (Flying Monkey Productions, 2014)
Irúnmolè (Funsho, 2016)
Ominira! (2017)

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Bixiga 70, Where Brazil and Africa Get Together

Bixiga 70 – Quebra Cabeça (Glitterbeat, 2018)

The Sao Paulo instrumental group Bixiga 70 is where Brazil and Africa meet. Their layered sound is explosive and energetic and all you have to do is hold on while the music takes over. With the recordings Ocupai, Bixiga 70 and III already under their belts, Bixiga 70 is ready to ride the airwaves again with their latest Quebra Cabeça set for release on October 19th on the Glitterbeat label.

The groups baritone saxophone player and flautist Cuca Ferreira explains, “From the very beginning, what we have always had in common is African-Brazilian music. Some of us come from candomblé (the African-Caribbean religion), others from jazz, reggae, dub, and everything. The whole idea of the band has been to take all these different elements that form us, from Africa and Brazil, and create a hybrid from them.”

Combining the talents of guitarist Chris Scabello, baritone saxophonist and flutist Cuca Ferreira, trumpeter Daniel Gralha, drummer Deicio 7, tenor saxophonist Daniel Nogueira, trombonist Douglas Antunes, bassist Marcelo Dworecki, keyboardist and guitarist Mauricio Fleury and percussionist Romulo Nardes, Bixiga 70 summons up an impossibly rich mix that finds space for Africa’s meaty percussive riches, Brazil’s infectious dance scene all the while sticking fingers into dub, jazz and reggae. So good luck sitting still with a dose of Quebra Cabeca.

Mr. Ferreira notes that the group’s influences often evolve out of collaboration and says, “We’ve been exposed to so much. So many of the people we’ve played with have had an impact on us, like Pat Thomas, the Ghanaian highlife singer or (Nigerian saxophonist) Orlando Julius. And then we toured and recorded with João Donato. He’s over 80 now and still playing piano, one of the icons of Brazilian music. We’ve learned from them all, they’ve made us think about what we can do with our music. Those new ideas have found their way into this album.”

The music of Quebra Cabeca is delicious from the percussion and sizzling guitar opening of title track “Quebra Cabeca” through to high energy dance track “Ilha Vizinha” through to the revolving musical theme of the Brazil soaked bold brass of “Pedra de Raio.”

We want people to relate to our melodies, to take the line a vocalist might use and play it on the horns,” says Mr. Ferreira. “Sometimes in instrumental music, the players are so good it ends up putting the listener at a distance. We make music as a celebration, a way to connect and bring some joy. We want to draw them in. We try to write something very memorable.”

The melange of sound on Quebra Cabeca is enticing and thrilling. Fans won’t want to miss out on the keyboard or trumpet sections of “Cantos” or the jazzy lushness of “Ladeira” or the dreamy mysteries conjured up on “Levante.” The quick paced “Torre” is just as delicious as the percussion and bass rich “Camelo” and as good as closing track “Portal.”

The layers of sound on Quebra Cabeca isn’t just electrifying it’s evocative and interesting. Too often listeners get hung up on the vocals, but with Bixiga 70 the nuances of turns of phrase are taken not by vocals but by instruments and it’s thrilling. Bixiga 70 adds meat to the bones and it’s all delicious.

Buy Quebra Cabeça

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