It's a good time for afropop, with the '70s William Onyeabor rediscovered by David Byrne and Mbongwana Star releasing one of the most exciting debuts of last year. Africaine 808's debut 'Basar' has emerged from Berlin's eclectic DJ scene however, with Nomad being a DJ at Vulcandance. Alongside his producer friend Dirk Leyers, the two express their respect for the music of Lagos together with their love of the Roland TR-808 and their local scene.
Both Nomad and Leyers are white artists, and their gleeful introduction of Nigerian drum beats to a western, Berliner audience could end up looking like cultural appropriation. But they manage to avoid this for the most part by referring back to the origins of their influences whenever they can. With Nomad as an ex-DJ on board, Africaine 808 seem keen on this idea of cultural exchange - their album namesake 'Basar', for instance, means 'oriental marketplace'. The art of being a DJ involves sharing your music knowledge without revealing all of your secrets, and we’re pretty sure that Africaine 808 are setting on sharing rather than claiming the music style as their own.
The project slips Nigerian rhythms into the NB trainers of unsuspecting western clubbers and partiers. But does it work? Nomad's DJ wits are at constant work, and on 'The Awakening' the two manage to slot together jazz samples with their stock favourite: the 808. It turns out that their choice of drum machine is well suited to Afrobeat rhythms; the lo-fi clicks of its hi-hats and snares sound close enough to percussive West African bells and shakers. This album is mostly instrumental, but 'Ready For Something New' features a husky vocal from OFRIN, who sounds like she has been woken up in the early hours of the morning to sing her part.
There are times where the album is inconsistent; the beats aren't as addictive on 'Rhythm Is All You Can Dance'. The album is at its strongest when it bravely introduces seemingly incompatible music styles to each other. We don't think we've ever heard gospel organ brought together with a bassy kick drum like this before but it's surprisingly effective on closer 'The Lord is a Woman'. It’s surprises like this that suggest where Africaine 808 are (hopefully) headed to next with their project.
Words: Lottie Brazier
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