Apr 14, 2010
Fanga - Sira Ba
2010’s revelation could well come from Montpellier. For the last ten years or so, the collective ‘Fanga’ has been on the up, blending afrobeat, jazz and funk and playing a music that is eminently spiritual. Fanga means ‘strength of conviction’ in Dioula and the commitment of the group is emblematic of its name.
An alliance of complementary personalities and cosmopolitan energies, Fanga first took form in 1998. Returning from Africa, Serge Amiano brings back a few vinyls of the likes of Fela, CS Crew and CK Mann that he plays to the Burkinabese rapper Korbo. Amiano being a hip-hop producer naturally takes on the role of the group’s artistic director right from the start.
The discovery of this urban African music of the 1970s quickly forms the basis of a shared passion. In 2000 the album ‘Black Voices’ by Tony Allen definitively seals Fanga’s birth and its afrobeat foundations with an obvious orientation towards dance and the solid relationship between the eight members of the group.
Fanga brings out its first six tracks in 2001 with a minimal rhythm section. Joined by the bass player Rajaneesh Dwivedi and the drummer Samuel Devauchelle, the group records ‘Afrokalyptik’ in 2003, its first album. The following album ‘Natural Juice’ comes out in 2007, warmly received and with much acclaim. Fanga is not only highly praised by Gilles Peterson but also the New York magazine Wax Poetics.
Having played with Antibalas, Seun Kuti and Kokolo, Fanga has nurtured solid relationships within the international afrobeat community. In the studio, the group’s path crosses that of Tony Allen and the sadly demised Segun Demisa, both pillars of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70, as well as that of the iconoclastic rapper Mike Ladd. Fanga launches its live project on stages around England, Holland, Spain and Italy.
Despite being firmly rooted in certain Nigerian and Ghanean musical traditions (those of the 1970s’ afro-beat and high-life) Fanga is equally at home to musical concoction, as demonstrated by the samples and other hip-hop and electronic ingredients, not to mention the vocals in Dioula, English and French. The gritty horns and earthy analogue keyboards shape the group’s sound whilst Korbo has no hesitation in embracing his Mandingue roots.
Flowing without restraint, Fanga exudes both spirituality and an intense persuasive power. It is home to an iron fist, characteristic of the most proud and organic of black musics. Melodious and hypnotic, the pieces developed by the group not only strive towards a groove conducive to a state of trance but is also equally appealing to the mind.
Whilst avoiding lengthy discourses, revolutionary messages and the pretension of offering answers to the problems of the world, Korbo nonetheless poses serious lines of reflection, in particular, defending the right to be different as well as nurturing a deeper harmony between humankind and nature. He denounces the social injustice arising from the pyramidal economic structures that have become uncontrollable and egotistical. Newspaper headlines often inspire Fanga’s songs.
Brought up on the raw energy of hip-hop, the group reposes equally on certain values that even today can only be found in Africa, a sort of candour and instinctive sense of rhythm which lends such freshness to Fanga. This urge to respond when faced with a base emotion, however fleeting, has governed their musical progression since the beginning of the 2000s.
Empassioned and passionate, their music contains alluring promise. Fanga takes on an entire dimension on stage. Those who’ve had the chance of seeing the group live can only agree. Under the ongoing artistic direction of Serge Amiano, Fanga has recorded its third album in spring 2009 in Montpellier, entitled ‘Sira Ba’ (The Long Road).
Over the course of nine pieces, the collective Fanga offers a look at the past through the eyes of the present and the future. The Jamaican singer Winston McAnuff infuses a reggae accent in I Go On Without You, whereas the Togo All Stars orchestra shines out like a thousand fires on Dounya, one of the strongest and most jubilant of the album, resonating in the afro-funk echos of Moussa Doumbia and Amadou Ballaké.
Alternating drawn-out lyrical climaxes, explosive brass passages, killer riffs and melodic ease, ‘Sira Ba’ displays a powerful force of conviction, reflecting an uncompromised musical complicity and an impressive flow of energy. Julien Raulet’s guitar work reacts perfectly with the keyboards of David Rekkab and the percussion of Eric Durand.
Martial Reverdy’s baritone reinforces the energy and persuasive power exuded by Fanga, along with the lyrics that take us straight back to the most glorious hour of the golden age of afrobeat, laced with the influences of that ‘great black music’. Once fallen under the spell of this strength of conviction, all that remains is to dance.
Fantastic funk from Fanga -- one of the hippest Afro-styled combos around! These guys have a bit more grit in their grooves than most -- still very much in the best 70s-inspired Afro Funk styles you'd expect, but with a nice edge in some of the rhythmic undercurrents -- almost as if their new recordings were actually some lost indie label sets from years back! Given their Parisian origins, the combo's also got a really international outlook on their music -- and seem to add in some more complicated changes to the rhythms -- almost a pan-post-colonial style that allows for some great variety on the album, while still hanging onto a funky groove at the core. Titles include "Bassi Te", "Follow Me", "Corruption", "Yeleko", "Dounia (part 1)", "Ni Ya Wouele", and "I Go On Without You".
1. Bassi té
3. Dounia Part I
4. Follow Me
7. I Go On Without You (feat. Winston McAnuff)
8. Tiogho tiogho
9. Ni ya wouele
10. Dounia Part II (feat. The Togo All Stars)