Afriquoi describe themselves simply as an “afro supergroup” who perform “live African dance music fusing Congolese guitar + Gambian kora virtuosity with UK electronic sensibilities”. Its band members: Andre Marmot (on percussion), Jally Kebba Susso (kora), Fiston Lusambo (guitar), Andre Espeut (voice) and Nico Bentley (production) certainly live up to this description in their 2015 album Kolaba.
The name Afriquoi is inspired by the delightfully expressive mannerism amongst francophone West-Africans to add “quoi” (“what”) to the end of sentences, best translated as “innit”. As band member Marmot explains, Afriquoi try to defy categorisation with their music. As with their name. “It’s basically saying it’s Afro, but so what?”.
Afriquoi have had several tours and released several singles but Kolaba is their first major album. They DJ-ed at XOYO last Saturday (21st) but sadly did not feature any tracks from this wonderful album, so instead I will try to do justice in this, my first music commentary, trying to condense the experience into a paragraph for each of their top four tracks.
When performing live, Afriquoi are sure to bring out their dancefloor hit ‘Kudaushe’. Its powerful use of African drums and xylophone makes a modern take on a traditional dance.
Starting and ending with some reflective notes on the kora Espeut tells us this song is an ode to “all the riches I have been blessed with”. The song climaxes with the lively refrain “Yes I know”. The message is to make the most of any fortune you may be blessed, appreciate it, don’t dwell and get on with living.
‘Papa Speaks Japanese’
A forty second out-of-body experience complete with space-age synth, I feel this piece reflects the global reputation of Japan as a futuristic nation. Over the trippy background of the synth accompaniment, the afore-mentioned Papa takes a plunge at Japanese. “Wastashiwa-wa-wa”.
Named after the guitarist, the line “Move your body like this” says it all. This is a fantastic dancefloor beat to move to with a nice fusion of traditional drums and Congolese guitar.
If you were hoping to know, as I am, what the non-English track titles mean, sadly I cannot enlighten you. Researching this article I discovered that West African languages and cultures are sadly under-represented online. However, with Afriquoi, the culture blending Western themes are getting out to the world.