[21 April 2008]
They’ve come together from the four corners of the Earth, but you could hardly accuse this lot of musical tourism. Subtle Latin-isms, shadings of cinematic jazz (“Wahala” would’ve worked a treat in the The Last King of Scotland), and some Bernie Worrell-esque squiggles aside, they keep the faith with a fierceness bordering on the Amazonian. A 13-piece ensemble dedicated to 13-minute polygrooves, Akoya Afrobeat follow the Kuti creed to the letter, right down to sleeve designer (Lemi Ghariokwu) and vocalist (Egypt 80 veteran Kaleta). A rolling percussive thunder clacking with needle-knitted guitar and a jungle of militantly choreographed reeds, this is call and response as high drama. Resistance is futile, and when veteran pan-Africanist Cedric “Im” Brooks relays the melody line of “Je Je L’aiye”, you sense that Fela, somewhere, is smiling his laziest smile, pulling shrewdly on a rocket-shaped roll-up in the knowledge that a fire still roars under his legacy.