Yaaba Funk at The Venue 4th Nov 2011

On November 4, 2011 Michael The Dood Edwards was fortunate enough to be invited to 229 The Venue, along with a couple hundred African music fans and aficionados to witness an evening of African musical bliss. Many fans had packed this intimate venue in London’s Great Portland Street for the main protagonist Seun Anilkupalo Kuti. However, having been sent the support acts CD, “Afrobeat” a few months before, the Dood was keen and willing to view London’s premiere purveyors of Ghanaian Hi-Life and Hi-Energy, new age Afro-broken beat and dub music, a.k.a. Yaaba Funk.

This multicultural outfit based in Brixton, south London have somehow managed to marry together their diverse musical influences into a unique and intensely powerful and infectious sound. This mix of 70s Ghanaian Hi-Life, the funk of James Brown/the JBs spliced with the UK flavours of The Specials and Roots Manuva were all in evidence on their opening track ‘Nyash! E Go Bite You,’ a driving pulsating rhythm punctuated by the JB style funk stabs of the horn section. Lead vocalists Richmond Kessie and Helen McDonald led their troops admirably from the front with an energy that emanated out into the audience. The next track ‘Political War’ segued neatly into Yaaba Funk’s rousing cover of Alhaji Frimpong’s ‘Hwe Hwe Mu Na Yi Wo Mpena.’

It was this song that highlighted the class musicianship of each individual in Yaaba Funk’s line-up. Paul Brett (Analogue Bass) and Lou Ciccotelli (Drums) set the foundation groove for Clive Wales (Congas); Christian Arcucci (Lead Guitar); Tobias Sturmer (Rhythm Guitar) and guest horn section Jason Yarde (Sax) and Robin Hitchcock (Trumpet) to jam over the top of. By this time the crowd were fully aware of what Yaaba Funk were about. And that was nothing but good wholesome feel good vibes rooted in African/Ghanaian heritage.

Further homage to another African music legend, none other than Fela Anikupalo Kuti came in the form of their self penned but soon-to-be classic ‘Kalabule Man.’ Richmond cajoled the crowd as any consummate front man would do, but this man does have a charm and charisma about him that is hard to ignore – His love of and faith in the music and heritage that Yaaba Funk represent is evident in both his impassioned dance and demeanour. Yaaba Funk’s explosive musically colourful set was concluded with another upbeat and anthem-esque song entitled ‘Gye Me Ne Mendwen.’ Fittingly both Helen and Richmond took it in turns to display some traditional Ghanaian high-kicking and pulsating dance moves, whipping those gathered into a frenzy of excitement in anticipation of the arrival of one Mr Seun Anilkupalo Kuti.

Well, Mr Kuti couldn’t have wished for a better warm-up act than London’s very own Yaaba Funk! They are indeed a most wonderful band to witness live and I suggest at your earliest opportunity you do just that. In the meantime make sure and secure your very own copy of their current album “Afrobeat,” it will keep a permanent smile on your face during the spring summer autumn and winter months.

Michael J Edwards