With this album, his sophomore offering, Dele Sosimi, ex-Fela sideman and former musical director of Femi Kuti, has delivered a confident, passionate, elegant and intelligently crafted answer to Afrobeat’s real identity crisis, and he has done this without losing the swagger and the grit that is Afrobeat.
Afrobeat is an iconoclastic music. It is essentially the creation and vision of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who took hard bop, the modal experiments of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, the Afrocentric black power sentiments prevalent in the free jazz movement, fused it with James Brown, took it back to its Nigerian roots and put it all on the one.
Ojoro – Ojoro is a left-jab, right-hook and total takedown of a riposte, aimed at certain elements in the music industry. In classic Afrobeat/hip-hop “battle-rap” mode, Sosimi tackles the question of authenticity and personal identity within a musical genre. Bass, drums, keyboards and guitar enter together in rumbling, measured groove; then the horns crisply swagger in and Sosimi dispatches all questions about identity with a lyrical broadside that lets you know that even though he has his roots, he also has his own style, game and ways, and though rooted in Afrobeat, this is a new music. It is a thrilling emancipation declaration.
Tho Ro Way Ya Hand – Afrobeat has always been in the paradoxical position of being art music with a popular following, worldwide yet underground. This track exemplifies that phenomenon. It kicks off with an intricate celebratory fanfare, played in unison by the horns and the rhythm section. The band then locks into a groove of seismic potency. The funk is fat and angular and, yes, so is the Afrobeat. And while I was mulling over the harmonic complexities of the track, my five-year old daughter was singing the hook: “Throw away your hand.” Afrobeat populism with the antidote frees your mind and boots your sacroiliac into gear.
B.B.E.N.Y. (Best Bet) – is a tale of a Friday evening encounter with a mad dog on the murky streets of Lagos, the dog being a metaphor for the ills and injustices of contemporary African life inflicted on the people by the very agencies charged with their protection. Delivered to a mean, moody head-butting groove of such percolating intensity, you are liable to have your hands stuck to the repeat-button. The bass and the drums imply hip-hop without losing sight of Afrobeat. Could this be the new funky drummer/rap payback for the 21st century?
E Jus’ Dey Go – Dealing with the persistent and tyrannical flow of time, it is a call to wake up and stop squandering potentials and opportunities, be they personal or national. Starts with a bass solo over chord changes (a first in Afrobeat) and is underpinned by a groove that is in no hurry to go anywhere. The bass tastefully slapped and muted bubbles unhurriedly, the music bright and sunny unfurls leisurely, revealing an aural landscape that has not been heard in Afrobeat before. There is a deliciously lyrical keyboard solo from Sosimi. Like taking a stroll along the palm-lined marinas of Lagos in the 1960s, in a nation where the future was an open book and the possibilities endless. Maybe it is a prophecy of future possibilities if we all heed the call to “wake up yourself, wake up your mind”.
I Don Waka – A bright, tuneful upbeat and evocative slice of high life-infused Afrobeat (major and bubbling over, in contrast to minor, moody and underground). The music flows majestically like a river. This is music without worries, music without cares, music to sway to. With a sweet, sweet trumpet solo by Tom Allan and some thoughtful interventions by Olofinjana.
Local Champion – A thinly disguised swipe at American world hegemony. Set to a bullyboy of a groove, capable of turning the UN security delegates into butt-shaking groove fiends, with a meditative solo from Sosimi and a fine solo from Justin Thurgur on trombone.
Omo Mo Gba Ti E – is an unabashed lovesong without the slightest trace of lyrical misogyny but the chest-thumping machismo of the music should ensure that the supplicant and the object of desire will be making babies before the track is over.
Ori Oka – is an instrumental invocation on which the musicians stretch out over a laid back groove that nevertheless manages to project heaps of attitude; with fine solos from all the musicians.
Wahala (Identity Mix)– is a fine update on classic Afrobeat grooves and themes. Dealing with the vagaries of life in modern day Nigeria, but again the harmonic palette is richer and more expansive. The horns boppishly deliver the main riff and the scintillating guitar hook is deployed for its melodic lift rather than just being a mere rhythmic foil. The horns are further used to create atmospheric and rhythmic textures beneath the soloists during the solos