Music Review: Elikeh – Between 2 Worlds

Genre: Afrobeat / Funk / African

Region: Washington DC, USA

Artists’ Website: Elikeh’s official website

Label: Azalea City Recordings

Release Date: 23 August 2012

In the current musical landscape there is surely fertile ground for afro-centric projects like Elikeh. Afrobeat is certainly celebrating a vivification partly due to the influential work of Antibalas since the 1990s, partly due to Seun Kuti’s coming to strength (From Africa With Fury: Rise) and partly due to other inspiring afrobeat-related bands like the Funk Ark, the Souljazz Orchestra etc. More than anything the world has witnessed numerous gifted African artists over the last years, Mali being the epicentre, and that has given a push.

‘Between 2 Worlds’ is a very welcome release, as it balances between African roots and Western music, the US and Africa, music and politics. Let us not forget that political commentary is hardwired in afrobeat’s essence. Afrobeat creator and guru Fela Kuti used music as a trigger of social change, speaking out against injustice, corruption, militarism – all persistent in the course of every day life in many African countries and elsewhere.

Like a modern day Fela, singer & songwriter Massama Dogo aims right at the heart of his fellow countrymen telling them what goes wrong and encourages them to rise up against their warlords and political elites. That becomes obvious already from the very first seconds of album’s starter ‘No Vision’ where he chants his very first verse: “ How can you lead with no vision, you make no independent decision…” The music combines funk and afropop with the characteristic African guitar harmonies and generally a melodious resonance. In the same direction but more funky and upbeat is the second track and one of the best in the album ‘Know Who You Are’.

On ‘Alonye’ Vieux Farka Toure joins the eight-member group while on ‘Nye’n Mind Na Wo’ kora master Mamadou Cherif Soumano plays along the rocking guitar of John Kadlecik on Elikeh’s groove. ‘Olesafrica’, a song full of sparkle and rhythm, is Elikeh’s tribute to UK-Ghanaian funk legends Osibisa. ‘Eh Wee’ is probably the track closest to Fela Kuti’s heritage with blazing, authoritative horns, rolling guitars, interweaving rhythms and chanting vocals. ‘Let Them Talk’ is a remake of luminary Geraldo Pino’ song, an artist who who impressed Fela Kuti in his first steps back in the day and who is recently rediscovered during afrobeat’s second youth.

Elikeh band Photo

Elikeh photo credits: Lisa A. Walker

This band is set for great things and their first output just proves this fact. ‘Brewing’ since Massama Dogo’s days in Lome, Togo’s capital, Elikeh found shelter in Washington DC’s vibrant multi-cultural art scene. With their next album to be recorded in Togo, Mali and the USA, we can only expect greatness.

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