Jun 2, 2010

Dele Sosimi - Turbulent Times


His career began when he joined Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's Egypt 80 (1979-1986). Then he created Positive Force band with Femi Kuti, with whom he performed from 1986 to 1994. In both bands he was keyboard player, also musical director taking care of re-orchestrating and arranging music as well as handling the recruiting and training of new musicians.

Based on Afrobeat, Dele's music is a blend of complex funk grooves, Nigerian traditional music (including hi-life), African percussion, underpinning the jazz horns and solos from other instruments, as well as rhythmical singing.

His keyboard work can be heard on Fela's several albums, as well as Femi's ones. Dele has also performed often with Tony Allen.

Following his first solo album Turbulent Times, he was invited to select the tracks for the 3-CD compilation "Essential Afrobeat" (Universal, 2004). He was producer and co-writer of "Calabash Volume 1: Afrobeat Poems" by Ikwunga, the Afrobeat Poet (2004). He is a central member of the Wahala Project. He has also featured on British rapper TY's album Closer and his Turbulent Times is featured on The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (2006). His album Identity has been described by Songlines magazine as “A sizzling set from London’s Afrobeat leader”.

His performances include The Montreux Jazz Festival, Joe Zawinul's Birdland (Vienna) the Treibhaus (Innsbruck ), Paradiso (Amsterdam), Bimhuis (Amsterdam), Oerol Festival (Terschelling, Holland), the Ollin Kan Festival (Mexico City), Canada Afrobeat Summit (Calgary, Canada), Sensommer Int Musikkfestival (Oslo, Norway), Festival Musicas Do Mar and Festival Musicas do Mundo (Portugal), Festival Art des Ville - Arts des Champs (France) & the London African Music Festival, Hot Club in Lyon and Cave à Musique in Mâcon (France.

Based in London, Dele Sosimi is an educator and instructor in Afrobeat (via his Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Foundation, and as a Visiting Lecturer in Music and Media, London Metropolitan University). Dele performs in one of three formats, each as compelling and funky as the others – a 15- piece Afrobeat Orchestra (featuring a 5-piece horn section and dancers), a 6-9 piece band (the most frequently used format) or a trio/quartet (with bass and drums/percussion).

Sosimi is abetted by a group of musicians. Afrobeat is given a virtuoso treatment by a core combination of Femi Elias (bass), Kunle Olofinjana (drums),Phil Dawson (rhythm guitar), Maurizio Ravalico (percussion), Justin Thurgur (trombone), Tom Allan (Trumpet) & Eric Rohner (Tenor Saxophone).



The shadow of Afrobeat innovator Fela Kuti still looms large, even though he died less than six years ago. Fela single-handedly championed a unique admixture of Pan-Africanism, highlife, funk and jazz (among other ingredients in the music's entrancing stew) for well over three decades, despite hostile military regimes and economic austerity in his native Nigeria.

Longtime Kuti (Egypt 80) keyboardist /vocalist Dele Sosimi is perhaps one of the best placed musicians to skipper the good ship "Afrobeat" into decidedly jazzier and more instrumental waters. This, of course, contrasts with the more strident political and Pan-Africanist tasks of Femi Kuti, Fela's musically talented son.

Sosimi's most recent CD, "Turbulent Times" (Ekostar, London) contains six fine tunes. The compositions reflect the ways in which this relatively young pianist has imbibed the jazz tradition, along with Fela's evident influences. It should always be borne in mind that the sine qua non of jazz - collective and individual improvisation - has its roots deep in Africa's musically fertile soils. This improvisatory impetus finds its most potent expression on "Turbulent Times".

Sosimi's spare, economical approach to his instrument bears some similarity to that of South African pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim. Full of catchy vamps and repeated motifs, ardent hard- and post-boppers won't find any reference points here: Afrobeat is not, strictly speaking a bebop derived art.

Aided and abetted by a rhythmic core of cannily percussive electric bassist Femi Elias and powerhouse drummer Feyi Akinwunmi (an heir-apparent to Tony Allen) Sosimi creates some of the most betwitching grooves in modern African music. Its little wonder that Afrobeat patterns are sampled by DJs from Mushin to Manhattan!

Check out the rollicking intensity of the title track (E get as E be) featuring Dele's deep voice; the percussive masterpiece "Big Cat Fat Cat" (showcasing Feyi's enthralling stickwork); and the mellower numbers like "Di Godfada" and "I No Like". These are African music gems.

Mention must be made of Sosimi's crack horn section: Byron Wallen on trumpet/flugelhorn (check out Wallen's masterly solo on "Gbedu 1", Tony Kofi on baritone sax, Linus Bewley on tenor sax, and Justin Thurgur on trombone. Guitarist Kunle Olasoju is credited as being an "Afrobeat guitarist" --- and he lives up to the description, with a wonderfully agile and rhythmic style. Richard Ajiliye provides an important percussive presence on the album.

"Turbulent Times" no doubt represents the leading edge of African jazz.



1. Turbulent Times
2. Gbedu 1
3. Phaze 2 (What Next)
4. Big Cat Fat Cat
5. Di Godfada
6. I No Like

No comments:

Post a Comment