Adje! Adje! is an album of strong beginnings and lacklustre middles and ends. Each song bolts off the starting line, muscular with trumpet, sax, and drum, but a little way in something happens: the singer’s voice trails, the music repeats itself without building into a more exciting sound, the trumpet reappears to give it a prod, a guitar has a solo, the song revives, trots for a while, sinks, wanders, rouses itself… The group’s founder, Massama Dogo, raised in Togo and now based in the US, is aiming for an Afrobeat-highlife mix with Togolese folk references, but he sounds hesitant singing in English—his third or fourth language—and that uncertainty translates itself across to the rest of the music. Repeating, “Reticence, reticence, reticence,” or, “Ebony, ebony, ebony,” at the end of a line in “Let’s March”, he seems to lose faith in the word by the third iteration, and this protest piece sounds less impassioned than it should. When the Malian rapper Yeli Fuzzo came in on “Madjo” with the kind of strong delivery that was missing from the other nine songs, I wondered why they didn’t rope him into “Let’s March” and “Aiko” and the rest as well.
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// Notes from the Road
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