Ikwunga has recorded a seminal concept album with a distinctly original African feel. Calabash Vol.1 brings together a superb collection of Ikwunga's poetry married with a satiny Afrobeat.
Ikwunga, an American Board Certified Psychiatrist and the son of a famous West African poet and tribal Chief, is unarguably the first afrobeat poet and the original creator of this unique addition to the afro-beat pantheon and to the burgeoning spoken word genre.
The poetry is easy to follow rhythmically and linguistically. Content can vary from the intensely political (leaning heavily towards pan-Africanism) to the love poem 'I don love' a hauntingly moving appeal to a lover who has yet to make up her mind.
Afrobeat, the music of the legendary Nigerian musician and sage, Fela Kuti, is clearly a huge influence on both Ikwunga and his superb backing band led and produced by Dele Sosimi (former keyboardist of Fela Kuti's Egypt 80 Band, and musical director of Femi Kuti's Positive Force Band). Ikwunga and Dele, previously fellow performers at Kuti's, famous night club, The Shrine in Lagos, have produced an album that can be enjoyed at many levels. Ikwunga is a fresh, urgent and lyrical voice in African poetry and the poems themselves are beautifully reproduced in the elegant presentation of this CD. These narrative poems have a distinctly African rhythm and can be enjoyed independently on sleeve notes. However Dele Sosimi captures the rhythm of the spoken word and provides the perfect accompanying music allowing the listener to enjoy the poetry while feeling the Afrobeat permeate his or her body. An excellent combination, which repays repeated listening, Calabash Vol. 1 leaves us eagerly awaiting Vol.2.
Proceeds from Ikwunga's Calabash series will partly fund the creation of The African Alliance for the Mentally Ill (TAAMI), a non-profit organization that will generate public awareness of mental illness in African communities, and advocate for mental health services treatment and research.