It’s a charmless wet day in Bristol town, so Clash is marching through Old Market’s ancient streets and heading to an unassuming industrial park for a splash of colour. Created by Glasto’s Shangri-La family, Lost Horizon is a 350-capacity venue dripping with pink and purple decor and, thankfully, far away from any noise complaints. It’s a reassuringly funky but lowkey operation dedicated to live music, art showcases, and the odd VR experience. Tonight’s entertainment? Togo All Stars, a West-African collective boasting some serious Voodoo rhythms.
Wedged between Ghana and Benin, geographically, Togo was perfectly located to soak up the birth of modern Highlife in the 1950s and the emergence of Afrobeat from 60s Nigeria. Combine that with Togo’s placement as the heart of Voodoo culture, and you have an intoxicating blend of traditional rhythms and modern soul mixed into its nightlife. Since dropping their self-titled debut in 2017, the band has been delighting European audiences with their extended Afrofunk numbers and now find themselves in the South West promoting their latest LP, ‘FA.’
Fronted by scene veteran Aguey Cudjoe, the band warmly great a sold-out crowd of all ages and begin. Starting a little tentatively, it doesn’t take long for the band and crowd to liven up, a good few horn blasts and dance breaks making everyone present smile. The All Stars are certainly less showboating than similar acts we’ve seen, but they do possess an easy charm and sense of pure musicianship that’s hard not to love. For an intimate venue like Lost Horizon, it’s a nice match, the crowd gently swaying to the 8-minute jams, pint in hand.
That’s not to say the band didn’t up the ante during their hour-plus set. Occasionally a younger member would grab the mic and increase the tempo for a blast of more straight funk. By the end, Cudjoe had the crowd shimmying up and down, arms raised, preaching about the communal power of music. “This is Voodoo music. We are powered by the true Voodoo.” A strong sense of tradition and respect for their origins flows from the group. They’re ambassadors for a culture that was long repressed, offering all present a taste of the original rhythms that would later power jazz, salsa, and soul.
With a good few ales sank, and asses shook, the Togo All Stars finish their deceptively long set to enthusiastic applause. Like all good gigs, things ended on a high, the entire room shaking their hands, eager for more. If you love the tightest rhythms known to man and good vibes, we recommend catching them next tour.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart