Although doors opened at 7pm, Afriquoi didn’t begin their set until 9pm. One hour of energetic, Afrobeat-infused dance music later, it was all over. Downstairs at Patterns it was packed with ever-younger-looking students, up for a fun Friday night. The venue was rather squashed in the middle and it was difficult to see the stage from either side, forcing us into a decision between actually seeing the band, while getting bumped into and tripped over by sweaty, gyrating students, or watching from an awkward angle in relative peace and comfort. We opted for the latter.
Afriquoi describe their music as having “one foot in the clubs”, and the group’s sound, from UK electronica to traditional African and Caribbean styles, certainly has a party vibe. Their niche sound combines chant-like vocals from charismatic frontman Andre Espeut, with the unique sounds of Jallykebba Susso’s Gambian Kora; a Mandinka harp built from half a large calabash covered in cow skin, with a long hardwood neck. ‘Papa’ Fiston Lusambo’s Congolese guitar and Andre Marmot’s masterful percussion, combined with the production of Nico Bentley, drawing on influences from UK dance music, completes a sound you won’t hear anywhere else.
Opening with their high energy remix of Vieux Farka Touré’s ‘Nouhaime Maiga’, this got the crowd moving instantly. Next was an extended version of their uplifting party hit ‘Kudaushe’, a personal favourite with its evocative vocal melody and catchy rhythm. The five-piece managed to retain this frenetic pace throughout the rest of their performance. Playing tracks from their first album ‘Kolaba’, and second EP release ‘Abobo Nation Part 1’, they clearly enjoy performing together and their positive energy seeped into the lively audience. The track ‘Mokako’ highlighted the talent of the Kora player and guitarist, while ‘Carnabala’, which features K.O.G singing “Omanye Aba” (let there be happiness) over hypnotic percussion lines, showcased the synthesis of styles that makes this band so unique.
‘Way Out’ with its chorus of “We come to talk about freedom, Yes I know” over a thumping 2-step bassline, had the whole room singing along, while projecting a much-needed message of unity. Other highlights were the jungle-flecked ‘Shaking up the Garden’ and ‘Fiston’ featuring Serocee; a dancehall/house fusion, creating a carnival atmosphere. Indeed, we couldn’t help thinking that an outdoor carnival or festival would be the ideal venue for these guys, rather than a cramped, dingy basement in Brighton.
Despite being short and sweet, it was an incredible, energetic performance of exciting cross-cultural genres. This collective is capable of creating a fun, infectious atmosphere and of producing music unlike any other. Catch Afriquoi at a summer festival this year and you’ve hit the jackpot.
Words and photo by Emma Baker