FOFOULAH – Fofoulah
aaamusic | On 13, Nov 2014
If you want to understand where the “sound of London” is heading to and where so-called world music is going, you must have a listen to the lastest Fofoulah album.
The London based sextet are one of the best embodiments of what a metropolis can musically inspire and build. It is the proof that when cultures pacifically and harmonically collide they can give life to stunning artistic creations.
Their eponymous album, which is not only the latest but also the debut LP of the band (next to a four track EP dated 2011), is the outcome of an inspired collaboration between astonishing musicians coming from different but parallel paths, like Tom Challenger, Dave Smith, Johnny Brierley and Kaw Secka (part of the Loop Collective, but also the Outhouse Ruhabi project), Phil Stevenson and Batch Gueye.
But, their abilities can’t be limited to the musicianship that they brilliantly show throughout the nice chapters of the album, because Fofoulah also discloses an “enlightened” cohesion able to join together the artistic singularities. The album is a work which matches together far away styles and traditions. It is an opera able to combine the most rhythmic and lively Western African soul to the rarefied, almost ethereal, urban electronic typical of the UK citified scenario (London and Bristol in particular).
Even if they declare to be London based, to limit the band to the British capital is misleading. London and the UK can be described as the starting point of the project, the base of operations, but Fofoulah move indeed on many different levels and latitudes. They express crucial music elements taken from the Senegal tradition and the Gambian one; then they also guest musicians from Algeria and Ghana.
But it is probably the Wolof soul which is better expressed in Fofoulah. The tradition, which lies at the basis of Western Africa culture, is revived through language, stories and, first and foremost, tunes. Fofoulah, which also means “it’s there” in Wolof, enjoys some of its most engaging moments when the typical relentless Senegambia rhythmic are set free; when the sabar beats boast its pace.
While songs like ‘Make Good (Soumala)’ and ‘Don’t Let Your Mind Unravel, Safe Travels’ (which also enjoy the voice of Ghostpoet) reflect the musical townscape where the different faces of the project initially got in touch and still easily join together, it’s during the more ethnic chapters of the album, like ‘No Troubles (Kelinte)’ and ‘Fighting Chance’, when the band can fully express itself, when the musicians can brilliantly show their artistic drive.
Arguably, the most important quality of the project is the ability to keep the balance on the verge between its two apparently opposite, identities. To have developed a sound which can embrace rap, dub and electro reverberation, but at the same time Afro-beat, funky and Afro-fusion, is probably the greatest achievement of Fofoulah – a never-ending work-in-progress as never-ending should be the sharing between cultures.
If you can accept a suggestion: go and see them live and you’ll be simply amazed by their musical richness.