Ibibio Sound Machine, a London based octet group, has released their self titled debut album. The group takes a heavy influence from West African culture, featuring Nigerian folk songs and gospel lyrics. Their lively style of afrobeat has been jazzed up with synths and shimmering electronic effects giving them an unmistakable contemporary sound while staying true to the funky West African genre.
The first track, “Voice of the Bird”, takes off with a synthetic melody soon followed by Eno Williams’ soft vocals. The lyrics are in the Southern Nigerian language of which the group is named after, Ibibio. The following tracks include the rest of the eight piece band, which has a stunning brass and guitar section which brings back the all too familiar funky sound of the late 70’s in America.
The inclusion of electronic sounds to a group of mainly live instruments is actually very electrifying to listen too. “Let’s Dance” is a great example where the quivering effects and bass keys enhance the high energy track in a way that feels like it could not be replace with a bass guitar or any other instrument. The electronic components of the tracks never feel gimmicky or overpowering to the rest of the live instruments; they are just adding to what is already good.
Aside from missing the cultural context of many of the tracks with names like “Uwa The Peacock” and “Ibibio Spiritual”, what I can say is this album is a great clash of culturally rich music and the modern electronic movement which has been proliferating into more and more music genres around the world. When done right, this movement of clashing and mixing can take what is good and rich about any genre and keep it relevant, if not bring it to a fresh new light.