Elikeh’s Between 2 Worlds – Conscious Party Music

by delarue

Washington, DC Afrobeat band Elikeh are known for their ecstatic live shows. The question is if their forthcoming album Between 2 Worlds can capture that magic and the answer is yes. They like biting minor keys, they write catchy hooks and the production on the album has the same kind of edge that they deliver live: it’s sonically smooth but not slick. Togolese-American frontman/guitarist Massama Dogo’s casually forceful, socially aware vocals alternate between English and his native tongue over Frank Martins’ bubbly lead guitar, Scott Aronson’s propulsive bass and the hypnotic beat of drummer Bagin Assouramou and percussionist Josh Kay, punctuated by horn section of saxophonists Clayton Englar and Megan Nortrup and trumpeters Aaron Pratts and Amumey Komla Augustino.

The caustic, Ethiopian-tinged opening track, No Vision could be directed at any number of presidents or so-called leaders worldwide, depicting them as puppets. Over blippy organ and a catchy bass hook, Know Who You Are is a cautionary tale for the African diaspora, while the album’s most intense track, Alonye features Vieux Farka Toure playing surprisingly eclectic lead guitar, blending his ferocious desert blues style with American funk.

The briskly shuffling Olesafrica, with its wah guitar, slinky bass hooks and edgy horns penetrating the mix, delivers an aggressive political message. They follow that with another revolutionary song, Fly to the Sky, an Afrobeat dancefloor anthem stripped to its bones without the drums, Dogo pensive yet defiant over brooding, spiky guitar and bass. The revolution keeps on coming as they pick up the pace again with the swaying, minor-key Foot Soldiers – if Bill Withers had tried his hand at Afrobeat, it might have sounded like this. Eh Wee (pronounced ay-way) brings back the hypnotic dance vibe, blending Afrobeat with oldschool 70s disco.

The funky Let Them Talk makes fun of people who won’t mind their own business, and features a couple of matter-of-fact, warmly crescendoing tenor sax solos. Nye’n Mind Na Wo has a steady funk beat, Furthur guitarist John Kadlecik’s snaky lines intertwining with Martins alongside punchy horns: it’s a kiss-off anthem of sorts. The album ends with a pensive, troubled, harmony-driven acoustic number, Nyi Dji. They’re doing the album release show on August 24 at the Black Cat in Washington. Elikeh also plays New York frequently (Sullivan Hall and Joe’s Pub are frequent haunts of theirs); watch this space for upcoming dates.