Everyone likes the idea of afrobeat but very few of us know where to start in this mysterious genre. So we asked Leo Piggott and Sam Telford of Ye Ye Fever to give us a quick lesson before the Afriganza! festival. “These sounds partially represent the hotbed of musical activity surrounding Nigeria and Ghana from the 60s to the 80s”, they explain. “Check out a mix of these tracks at on the mix below and enjoy!”
African Brothers Dance Band
‘Ebi Te Yie’
An outstanding Ghanian band led by P.S.K. Ampadu, whose joyous and often wild vocals lead a call and response of incredible harmonies. He also heads the three-guitar interplay, as they casually throw around cycling, reverby melodies that swirl around your head – a compelling element of highlife music from the area. The drums are jazzier than some other bands of the time and the way this works with the layers of polyrhythms from the percussionists creates a tremendous energy.
Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestros
‘Obodo Eyo (Ekassa 12)’
A musician, writer, sculptor and musical instrument inventor, it seems Uwaifo has succeeded at everything by sheer will of his personality. Though he began as a highlife musician, he embraced many styles and as they passed in and out of fashion. He made sure to stamp each with his ebullient vocals, guitar and (later on) synths. This joyful tune is from his classic early 70s period.
Fela Kuti was a Nigerian saxophonist, pianist and bandleader. He was also a musical and political revolutionary who – along with his drummer Tony Allen – is widely credited with inventing the afrobeat genre, mixing African rhythms, jazz and funk. ‘Yellow Fever’ encapsulates their musical vision perfectly. Allen’s masterful drums slip around the indomitable pulse, alongside hypnotic funk guitars, pumping basslines and stabbed horn riffs. Fela pours out ferocious piano and sax solos before launching into an impassioned diatribe against the practice of African people lightening their skin.
‘Love & Death’
A true giant of Ghanian music, Ebo mixes his country’s traditional musical and lyrical themes with highlife, funk and jazz to create his own unique take on the afrobeat sound. This track has it all – a killer head blasted out by the horns, a rhythm that you can’t help but dance to, that beautiful, vintage electric piano sound, Taylor’s signature subtle and choppy guitar lines and a chorus of singers with a heartfelt and dark allegory on love. The entire sound evokes sweaty dance parties in balmy Ghana nights.
T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo
On any given day our favourite tune by this legendary Beninese band could be a number of different songs, but this one is doing it right now. Also it seems fitting to choose one composed by band leader and founder Melome Clement, since he passed away late in 2012. Is it afrobeat, afro-latin, disco? It’s all of these things! It begins with a monumental horn stab into a filigree of lead guitar, a silky riff and then in comes the spacey synth and groove. 18 glorious minutes follow.
‘Ori Gbe Wa De Bi ‘Re’
This deep and funky track draws you in with the groove and charismatic thwack of the talking drum, a chief instrument for Nigerian juju artists like Dele Abiodun. In ‘Ori Gbe…’ he takes the form to a whole other space. The sound is strangely timeless, as ripples and bursts of synths or whistles play with the raw percussive instruments. His slide guitar style defies belief, using long moments of tension, odd rhythms and eerie melodies as the bass emerges to a popping, disco-y flurry.
CLUB NIGHTS: Tempo No Tempo at The Mesmerist Sat 16th; Ye Ye Fever at Green Door Store, Fri 29th
FESTIVAL: Afriganza!, Blind Tiger Club Thurs 14th-Sun 17th (see News)
Words By Leo Piggott And Sam Telford
Illustration By Sam Telford
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