Dakar Audio Club; Exeter’s African Secret

Such is the universal beauty of Bandcamp, one goes exploring music from another continent and discovers something sublime, from only ninety miles down the M5!

If it’s unlikely there’s an Exeter Audio Club in Senegal, there’s certainly a Dakar Audio Club in Devon, whereby afrobeat fusion knows no boundaries. I mean, I went searching for soukous, more Congolese rhumba-influenced than the dance music mbalax of Senegal, popularised by Youssou N’Dour, but when it boils down to the nitty-gritty, usage of the afrobeat blanket term averts erroneously pigeonholing outside Africa. Providing it’s got exotic riffs and danceable beats, I’m game, and the Dakar Audio Club certainly ticks those boxes.

If mbalax isn’t as frenetic as soukous, Dakar Audio Club partially reflects this; it rocks steady, offering euphoric soundscapes, citing Malian blues, Ghanan highlife and reggae, as well as soukous as key ingredients to its unique melting pot; afro-fusion.

Not put off by the algebra title, B+W is their second full album, released last year, but I’m mentioning it now because I’ve just discovered it, and love shines when tropical ambience washes up on our shores. Viability of catching a band live is problematic for world music fans, unless you’re an international jetsetter or, as is here, the mountain welcomely comes to Muhammad.

They boast as a seven-piece band formed with members from Senegal, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, UK and Ireland. The latter evident in the most diverse track Lines in Desert, which occupies an experimental place between their house style and something particularly eighties two-tone, English pop of The Selecter or Specials. To the untrained ear you’d be excused for imagining this might be Paul Simon’s Graceland influenced by north-western territories rather than South Africa, dashed with Can’t Stand Losing You from The Beat. That said, N’Dour featured on Graceland, so who’s splitting hairs?

Throughout the remaining eight tracks, though, which are far less European sounding, the subtle reggae element is more dub than ska, perhaps nodding to the resistance rhythms of Thomas Mapfumo and chimurenga, as this beautiful album offers hypnotic beats and melodic rhythms, encasing the blend, gorgeously and nimbly executed. In this comes my point, it’s engaging, moreish, absolutely divine and doesn’t stand on convention of any particular genre, which isn’t quintessentially necessary locally anyway.

In a pretend word, it’s Womad-tastic, opening with a jazzy track Howmoco, in which you should imagine as if The Brand-New Heavies were from Zimbabwe, the second tune wears a similar suit, immersing you in the hypnotical rhythm of their wholesale style. Next is aforementioned Paul Simon does Two-Tone Lines in Desert. Buganala though skanks perhaps more, really displaying the reggae influence inherit in many contemporary African genres. Nea Wurri Solo comes over township jive, whereas standout track Dancing The Moonlight, sounds like the soukous I was looking for, though steel drums add a Caribbean influence here, and there’s a club fashioned remix on offer as a single too.

From there we are treated to a continuation of this gorgeous melting pot of tropical sounds and rhythms, which will bring sunshine into your life on the cloudiest of days. By the penultimate Amuul Solo, I’m too locked into the flow to bother with categorisation as it wobbles with dub reverbs, but casts the hypnotic seven riffs of Africa, in accordance with Hugh Masekela, with a blissful ambient finale.

I confess, if I have an area of expertise, African music isn’t it, but least I know what I love, and this is it! It’s one those you have to listen to and get lost in yourself, so do it, and brighten up your Sunday!


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