Afro-pop

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Broth­ers and Sis­ters Lakuta Tru Thoughts It’s Time Alma Afrobeat En­sem­ble Slow Walk Mu­sic When they hit Lon­don with their criss­cross Ghana­ian high­life and an­i­mated Nige­rian afrobeat rhythms back in the 1970s, Osi­bisa and Fela Kuti lit a path be­tween Africa and Europe that has since be­come a high­way. The lat­est ex­cit­ing Afro­cen­tric act to lure pun­ters on to English dance floors is based in the sea­side town of Brighton and co-fronted by a charis­matic fe­male vo­cal­ist of Tan­za­nian-Kenyan ori­gin. Mean­while, in Barcelona, lo­cal mu­sic lovers are gy­rat­ing to the rhythms of an equally bril­liant band led by a Nige­rian male lead singer. In out­stand­ing tracks that open their re­spec­tive new al­bums, Lakuta and Alma Afrobeat En­sem­ble up­date the genre that Fela Kuti hatched half a cen­tury ago, while hon­our­ing the Afrobeat pi­o­neer’s pro­cliv­ity for so­cially and po­lit­i­cally charged com­men­tary and com­po­si­tional and ar­rang­ing flair with their funky brass, elec­tric gui­tar, or­gan and tribal drum-styled songs. In Alma Afrobeat En­sem­ble’s dance-in­duc­ing lead ti­tle track It’s Time, singer Joe “Olawale” Psalmist ex­horts the need for change (in Yoruban), as hefty horn hooks work in tan­dem with per­cus­sion­ists and cho­rus singers. With sim­i­lar back-up, Siggi Mwa­sote (in English) rails against sex­ual prej­u­dice in Lakuta’s punchy opener, Bata Boy. Af­ter that, the bands take some­what di­ver­gent routes. Else­where on their aus­pi­cious de­but al­bum Broth­ers and Sis­ters, Lakuta tap gui­tar riffs not dis­sim­i­lar to those associated with Con­golese souk­ous to en­er­gise songs that enun­ci­ate the dif­fi­culty of par­ent­ing in poverty ( Rice & Peace) and com­ment on liti­gious ten­den­cies in the com­mer­cial mu­sic sec­tor ( So Sue Us). In Changanya, which es­pouses an open­minded at­ti­tude to cross­cul­tural fu­sion, the band prac­tises what it preaches by meld­ing West African kora and Cuban brass with a fla­menco chord pro­gres­sion. The in­stru­men­tal Pique har­nesses mes­meris­ing Ethiopian-flavoured horn lines in be­tween jazzy sax­o­phone, trom­bone and gui­tar breaks. In Lose Your­self, a num­ber with acid jazz over­tones, Siggi Mwa­sote’s soul­ful singing soars to gospel heights. In the open­ing self-tagged “Side A” sec­tion of their first al­bum with Psalmist, Alma Afrobeat En­sem­ble’s trance­like rhythms, elon­gated tracks and im­pro­vised so­los skirt closer to the orig­i­nal Afrobeat tem­plate. In­deed, an 8½ minute di­a­tribe in English ad­dress­ing po­lice abuse of power is so au­then­tic sound­ing that it could eas­ily pass for a Fela Kuti orig­i­nal. Fea­tur­ing fever­ish fe­male cho­rus singing, a scorch­ing San­tana-es­que elec­tric gui­tar break and a thun­der­ous trom­bone solo, Shake­down is a stand­out. The other ex­tended num­bers recorded by the band in Barcelona ( Live and Let’s Live and Lost) are equally well ar­ranged and ar­rest­ing.

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