Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Elikeh’s Afrobeat Makes an Unbeatable Party Soundtrack

Washington, DC-based Afrobeat band Elikeh’s album Adje! Adje! landed on a lot of best-of-2010 lists at the end of last year for a good reason: it’s a phenomenal party album. This isn’t fratboy music, and it’s about as far from Vampire Weekend as you can possibly get: it’s the real thing, a mix of Fela-inspired, 1970s style Afro-funk with Ethiopian tinges, traditional Togolese sounds, a defiantly smart lyrical sensibility and a groove that’s every bit as infectious as it should be. There isn’t a single song on here that’s not catchy. The lead guitar, in particular, is excellent, whether burning through bluesmetal on the resolutely anti-imperialist title track that opens the album, delivering swaying funk or judiciously incisive blues lines. Add spicy horns and hypnotic, organic dancefloor rhythms to the darkly incisive, minor-key melodies, and you have a recipe for a tidal wave of moving bodies.

“Here they come again, this time I won’t let them take over my place,” Massama, the band’s Togo-born frontman insists on the title cut. “Congo is burning, they burn down our barriers…they killed Sankara, they killed Lumumba,” a warning that the imperialists are still as mindful of African resistance as they were during the colonial age. The single best track here might be the last one, a tersely thoughtful rap number, delivered in French over simple, funky acoustic guitar: “Everybody follows the American way,” Massama warns, but even if you’re African and you’re born in Paris, or the US, you’re still African. The solution? It’s up to the people; the oppressors won’t make things any better.

The rest of the album is just as diverse. About two thirds of the way through, there’s what’s essentially a suite of three hypnotic one-chord jams that speed up and raise the ante higher and higher, the sort of thing that seems designed to bring a concert to peak intensity. The album’s second track adds hints of reggae and balmy flute; the third, a flamenco-flavored number, features deliciously twangy reverb guitar and a dramatic Spanish guitar solo. The rest of the album veers from slinky funk to funk-pop and a suspenseful, intense vamp to wrap it up right before the closing rap. Shame on us for blinking and not including this on our Best of 2010 list. Elikeh are at Joe’s Pub this coming April 16 at 11:30 PM.

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February 10, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment