May 2, 2010

Dele Sosimi - Identity


In The Begining...

Dele Sosimi, whose career began when he joined Fela Anikulapo-Kutis Egypt 80 in 1979, stands out as one of the most active musicians currently on the Afrobeat scene worldwide ..Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was the founder of the style of music known as Afrobeat. The music is a blend of complex but highly danceable funk grooves, Nigerian traditional music (including hi-life) and African percussion underpinning the jazz horns and solos from other instruments, as well as rhythmic singing.

As the rhythm keyboard player for Fela Anikulapo Kutis Egypt 80 band, Dele worked and toured extensively with Fela around the world. During Felas incarceration in 1984, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti Felas son and Deles childhood/school friend - took over the reins temporarily and led the Egypt 80 band and Dele had a chance to develop his arranging skills as its musical director, re-orchestrating and re-arranging as well as handling the recruiting and training of new musicians for the band. Dele played keyboards on the following Fela/Egypt 80 hits (among others): Parambulator, Power Show, Original Sufferhead, Customs Check Point, MOP 1 (Movement of the People), Give Me Shit, I Give You Shit, Authority Stealing, Army Arrangement, Government Chicken Boy, ITT (International Thief Thief) and Teacher Dont Teach Me Nonsense.

In 1986, Dele and Femi left Egypt 80 to form their own band called Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and the Positive Force, for which Dele was the musical director and bandleader. He was again responsible for recruiting and training new band members, as well as performing on rhythm keyboard and featuring as the keyboard soloist. The band toured the world extensively and played in several of the major jazz festivals including Montreux, the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz festival. The Positive Force was also invited to perform at the Jazz Club of Nigeria Festival alongside other renowned musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Didier Lockwood. They produced the albums No Cause for Alarm, Mind Your Own Business and Wonder Wonder.

Dele at this time also developed other musical influences and interests, working and playing with an Afro Jazz Quartet/Quintet and through a collaboration with French Bassoon player Alex Ouzounoff, producing a CD titled Made In Nigeria, courtesy of the French Cultural Centre, Lagos, Nigeria.

Dele left Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and the Positive Force in December 1995 and moved to London where he set about forming a new group. The resulting project reflected Londons multicultural environment, with a strong influence of jazz and shades of deep funk and latin music, but all underpinned by the heavy grooves of Afrobeat's Yoruba rhythm with Dele’s vocals very strongly in the Afrobeat tradition. Dele’s first solo album “Turbulent Times” (2002) featured the cream of the resident Afrobeat community on the label Eko Star. Dele has also recently selected the tracks for a 3-CD compilation entitled “Essential Afrobeat”, with Family Recordings (Universal), released in October 2004, and he also was producer and co-writer of “Calabash Volume 1: Afrobeat Poems” by Ikwunga, the first Afrobeat Poet, also released in 2004. He is also a central member of the Wahala Project, which released the single Wahala in 2006; the track also appears on Puma’s 2006 Soccer World Cup Compilation CD Africa Plays On . His new Album IDENTITY has attracted reviews from the Limited edition preview release in Holland this Summer.

Live appearances in 2006 have included, amongst others, Mexicos Ollin Kan Festival and Novi Sad-Serbias Etno Fest and in 2007 Brent Respect Festival, City Of London Festival, Oerol Festival, Terschellings & Paradiso, Amsterdam Holland, Mayor of Londons Africa Day Festival @ Trafalgar Square.

Dele performs in one of three formats, each as compelling at funky as the others a fifteen-piece Afrobeat Orchestra (featuring a five piece horn section and Afrobeat dancers), a nine-piece band (the most frequently used format) or a trio (with bass and percussion).

Sosimi is abetted by a group of musicians, most of whom have either played with him on previous records or have gigged with him on the live circuit. They all have chops to spare and the communication between them is near telepathic. Afrobeat is lovingly given the virtuoso treatment by a combination of Femi Elias, whose Bass growls, twists, turns, pulsates & grooves, Kunle Olofinjana on drums who meshes perfectly with Elias and like a dream machine the groove never lets up. The gear changes are seamless, no accent or punctuation is missed, Phil Dawson who delivers tasty, funky rhythm guitars and some truly exquisite solos from a wide range of angles, again revealing the endless possibilities of what can be done with this music, Maurizio Ravalico on percussion adding colour and The horns - delivered with laser-like precision by Justin Thurgur on Trombone, Tom Allan on Trumpet & Eric Rohner on Tenor Saxophone.



With this album, his sophomore offering, Dele Sosimi, ex-Fela sideman and former musical director of Femi Kuti, has delivered a confident, passionate, elegant and intelligently crafted answer to Afrobeat’s real identity crisis, and he has done this without losing the swagger and the grit that is Afrobeat.

Afrobeat is an iconoclastic music. It is essentially the creation and vision of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who took hard bop, the modal experiments of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, the Afrocentric black power sentiments prevalent in the free jazz movement, fused it with James Brown, took it back to its Nigerian roots and put it all on the one.

Ojoro – Ojoro is a left-jab, right-hook and total takedown of a riposte, aimed at certain elements in the music industry. In classic Afrobeat/hip-hop “battle-rap” mode, Sosimi tackles the question of authenticity and personal identity within a musical genre. Bass, drums, keyboards and guitar enter together in rumbling, measured groove; then the horns crisply swagger in and Sosimi dispatches all questions about identity with a lyrical broadside that lets you know that even though he has his roots, he also has his own style, game and ways, and though rooted in Afrobeat, this is a new music. It is a thrilling emancipation declaration.

Tho Ro Way Ya Hand – Afrobeat has always been in the paradoxical position of being art music with a popular following, worldwide yet underground. This track exemplifies that phenomenon. It kicks off with an intricate celebratory fanfare, played in unison by the horns and the rhythm section. The band then locks into a groove of seismic potency. The funk is fat and angular and, yes, so is the Afrobeat. And while I was mulling over the harmonic complexities of the track, my five-year old daughter was singing the hook: “Throw away your hand.” Afrobeat populism with the antidote frees your mind and boots your sacroiliac into gear.

B.B.E.N.Y. (Best Bet) – is a tale of a Friday evening encounter with a mad dog on the murky streets of Lagos, the dog being a metaphor for the ills and injustices of contemporary African life inflicted on the people by the very agencies charged with their protection. Delivered to a mean, moody head-butting groove of such percolating intensity, you are liable to have your hands stuck to the repeat-button. The bass and the drums imply hip-hop without losing sight of Afrobeat. Could this be the new funky drummer/rap payback for the 21st century?

E Jus’ Dey Go – Dealing with the persistent and tyrannical flow of time, it is a call to wake up and stop squandering potentials and opportunities, be they personal or national. Starts with a bass solo over chord changes (a first in Afrobeat) and is underpinned by a groove that is in no hurry to go anywhere. The bass tastefully slapped and muted bubbles unhurriedly, the music bright and sunny unfurls leisurely, revealing an aural landscape that has not been heard in Afrobeat before. There is a deliciously lyrical keyboard solo from Sosimi. Like taking a stroll along the palm-lined marinas of Lagos in the 1960s, in a nation where the future was an open book and the possibilities endless. Maybe it is a prophecy of future possibilities if we all heed the call to “wake up yourself, wake up your mind”.

I Don Waka – A bright, tuneful upbeat and evocative slice of high life-infused Afrobeat (major and bubbling over, in contrast to minor, moody and underground). The music flows majestically like a river. This is music without worries, music without cares, music to sway to. With a sweet, sweet trumpet solo by Tom Allan and some thoughtful interventions by Olofinjana.

Local Champion – A thinly disguised swipe at American world hegemony. Set to a bullyboy of a groove, capable of turning the UN security delegates into butt-shaking groove fiends, with a meditative solo from Sosimi and a fine solo from Justin Thurgur on trombone.

Omo Mo Gba Ti E – is an unabashed lovesong without the slightest trace of lyrical misogyny but the chest-thumping machismo of the music should ensure that the supplicant and the object of desire will be making babies before the track is over.

Ori Oka – is an instrumental invocation on which the musicians stretch out over a laid back groove that nevertheless manages to project heaps of attitude; with fine solos from all the musicians.

Wahala (Identity Mix)– is a fine update on classic Afrobeat grooves and themes. Dealing with the vagaries of life in modern day Nigeria, but again the harmonic palette is richer and more expansive. The horns boppishly deliver the main riff and the scintillating guitar hook is deployed for its melodic lift rather than just being a mere rhythmic foil. The horns are further used to create atmospheric and rhythmic textures beneath the soloists during the solos



1. Ojoro 9:29
2. Ya Hand 7:01
3. B.B.E.N.Y 10:09
4. Local Champion 9:14
5. I Don Waka 4:50
6. Omo Mo Gba Ti E 11:00
7. E Just Dey Go 5:31
8. Ori Oka 11:17
9. Wahala (Identity Mix) 8:15

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