The continuing vestiges of the classic Fela Ransome Kuti sound have been much pillaged and even plagiarised by countless musicians. However, in the very competent hands of the London Afrobeat Collective (LAC), the sound is merely the starting point for a creative musical exploration that takes in gritty soul and funk, varied tempi and a coherent/cohesive ensemble sound that is sure to attract even the most reticent or indeed seasoned of Afrobeat listeners. Recorded at the Fish Factory in London, this is Afrobeat with a decidedly cosmopolitan London twist and all the better for it.
Matters begin on a high with the busy as a bee opener, ‘Celebrity Culture’, that features some lovely chopped guitar that Niles Rodgers would appreciate and the combination of neo-disco and Afrobeat is an absolute winner. Jazzier flavours are gradually introduced on the heavy bassline groove of ‘Prejudice’, most notable for a terrific trumpet solo and the lovely call and response vocals led by female lead singer Funke Adeleke. Certainly, the rhythm section of bassist John Matthews and lead guitarist Alex Szyjanowicz are a special unit that LAC would do well to hold onto.
The continent from which the Afrobeat phenomenon first emerged is not forsaken and ‘Say what you mean’ is the number that remains closest in form to the original with some lovely highlife-inspired guitar while collective vocals are straight out of the Chic repertoire just to add a certain je ne sais quoi. It should be stated here that band collaborations have included the legendary Egypt 80 who were of course Fela’s accompanist back in the day while another meeting of musical minds was intriguingly with the Bombay Bicycle Club, and just goes to show how panoramic the LAC vision is.
A soulful mid-tempo vocal piece, ‘First World Problem’ makes for wonderful variation and the restrained collective horns and subtle guitar riffs work a treat. This song will immediately appeal to a soul/funk audience and demonstrates that Afrobeat can be successfully transposed into a different musical setting. For an altogether gentler beat, the mid-tempo ‘I no be criminal’ indicates that a lessening of tempo does not diminish in any way the intensity of the message or music and once again Andy Watts excels on trumpet. The London Afrobeat Collective will perform live dates throughout the summer with concerts in May-July and on into August, and this includes the prestigious Glastonbury and Mondomix festivals as well as the South Bank.