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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Was a TwoManTing at the Southgate

Managed to make it somewhere between out and Micky Flanagan’s out-out last night. In other words, I didn’t change out of my manky khaki shorts I’d been gardening in, but still got a pint or so down “the Gate.” I’ve been aching to witness the duo, TwoManTing for myself, Captain Obvious; yes, TwoManTing is a duo, you can’t make it up.

Appearing at the Devizes trusty Southgate a few times previously, it’s been something I’ve been meaning to catch-up with, being their appellation sounds all rather reggae, my favourite cup of tea. My residual curiosity though, how can a duo make reggae, something you surely need a gang for; a bassist, a drummer, brass section et all?

Two Man Ting

Answer revealed, the “ting” part might be misconceiving to our preconceived notion the phonologic is Jamaican patois. The Bristol-based duo consists of English guitarist Jon Lewis, who has a clear penchant for Two-Tone and punk inclinations of yore, and Jah-man Aggrey, a Sierra Leonean percussionist. They met playing together as part of dance band, Le Cod Afrique, at venues such as Montreux Jazz Festival and WOMAD, formed the duo in 2004, and make for an interesting and highly entertaining two-man show.

Something of a surprise then, and a rarity around these backwaters, to hear maringa, demonstrative folk of Sierra Leone, perhaps catered more to our tastes via Jon, but essentially the same ballpark, acoustic guitar and percussion. Somewhere between calypso but with the Latino twinge of rhumba, best pigeonholed, their sound is motivating and beguiling, and achieved with originality. In fact, to my surprise most of their compositions were their own creations, save the sublimely executed known cover of The Clash’s Guns of Brixton, Jon’s clear punk inspiration showing forth.

They told there’s a Clash cover on each album, of which they’ve produced three. Story checks out; Armagideon Time on their first album Legacy, which I could quibble is actually a Coxsone’s Studio One cover by the Clash, aforementioned Guns of Brixton on 2015’s Say What? and something of a rarity from Combat Rock, the poet Allen Ginsberg’s duet with Strummer, Ghetto Defendant, which can be found on their most up-to-date album, 2019’s Rhymes With Orange.

But this punk influence is sure subtle, the mainstay of their enticing sound is the acoustic maringa, palm wine music traditional throughout West Africa, at least for the start of the show. The most poignant moment for me was Jah-man attributing his homeland’s natural glory, rather than that which people tend to ask him about, the civil conflicts and war, in a chorus which went, “why not ask me about….”

Jah-man and George hanging out after the gig

As the performance progressed the fashion modernised, live loops upped the tempo, and it became highly danceable afro-pop, in the style of soukous, more spouge than cariso in delivery; how apt for the current heatwave! At times lost in the music, it was easy to throw-off the notion the wonderful sound was reverberating from just two guys, rather than an eight-piece band, reason enough for BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne to say of TwoManTing, “brilliant – if you want a bit of early summer, then get this into your ear-holes!”

Today they can be caught at Salisbury’s Winchester Gate, but appreciation again to The Southgate for supplying Devizes with something diverse and entertaining. Next Saturday at “the Gate,” Rockport Blues appear, for a night of blues, rock and soul classics, starting at 7:30pm.


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Local Artist Clifton Powell Commissioned for English Heritage Exhibition The African Diaspora in England

A proud moment for Devizes-based artist Clifton Powell as he poses for a photo next to his amazing portrait of Abbot Hadrian, in Canterbury.

Clifton joins Elena Onwochei-Garcia, Glory Samjolly, Mikéla Henry-Lowe, Hannah Uzor and Chloe Cox in a project by English Heritage. EH has commissioned a series of portraits depicting six historic figures from the African diaspora whose stories have contributed to England’s rich history. Each artist has been supported by their curators and historians to creatively portray their subject. Each painting will be hung at the English Heritage site connected to its subject this summer.

St Hadrian of Canterbury played a pivotal role in the early history of the English Church. He was born in North Africa and travelled to Italy, most likely as a refugee, before making the journey to Canterbury. He was abbot of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul (later St Augustine’s) in Canterbury, between 670 and 710.

During his time in Canterbury, he became an influential teacher and scholar, and helped shape the theology and rites of worship of the English Church.

Clifton Powell studied at the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the UK in the late 1980s. A versatile and skilled painter, Clifton is influenced by the places he has travelled to and the people he’s met. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions and art fairs in London, Bath, Stroud and the West Country including the International Black Art Fair, The House of Emperor Haile Selassie, Bluestone Gallery and Diaspora at Salisbury Arts Centre.

You may also remember me reporting on the day I attended the charity-run art group for the elderly, Arts Together, in Melksham way back in February 2019, where I met with Clifton, who is a mentor and volunteer.

Recent areas of exploration in his work include the Wiltshire countryside, wildlife, birds, still life and his remarkable series of paintings depicting unrest in the world. He is currently working on a painting project titled African Art. You can catch his work closer to home, from 21st June to 3rd July at The Yelde Hall in Chippenham when he exhibits as part of Breakout, the Alternative Art Show.

A follow-up to the 2019 exhibit Never Mind The Heritage, Here’s an Art Show, in which three local artists, Si Griffiths, Mike Long and Emma Sally exhibited their “alternative art,” Breakout extends the concept, with additional artists Clifton, Daniel Carmichael, Helen Osborne-Swan, Jimmer Willmott and Montague Tott, as well as Si, Mike and Sally. I’m looking forward to this one.

While I’m on the subject of art, don’t forget we have an online art gallery on Devizine, yes we do! Each artist gets a page to show off their work, Clifton’s is here, and if you’d like to be featured with links to your website, just drop us a line, there is no fee.


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Song of the Day 29: Bunny Wailer 1947-2021

Photo Credit: Redferns/Gem

I know, this feature is supposed to be for new music, promoting new and upcoming bands and artists. But here’s a notion, without the pioneers of many sounds their music would sound very different. So perhaps, when we lose a legend, we could also use it to pay tribute to them.

Sound like a plan?

Righty then, suitable for the agenda is the sad news today of the passing of the last of the three original Wailers, Neville O’Riley Livingston, aka Bunny Wailer. The red, gold and green flag flies at halfmast today, blessings to his family and friends.

And that’s my song of the day.


Tuareggae; Bombino is the African Hendrix

In conventional record shops of yore, albeit some survived, you’d find the mainstream alphabetically presented, and it’d be a dare on to yourself to venture to separate genres. They were usually labelled thus; Reggae, Classical, Easy Listening, and World, perhaps Blues too. While some conveniently slip into a standardised genre, others must have had grey areas. But, surely the most diverse was “World,” as if every remaining country in the world except the one you live in, and probs America, sounds the same, and furthermore, you’d be some kind of beatnik pseudoscientist weirdo to even contemplate browsing there.

It’s all so vague, and without the music industry pushing, a minefield of guestimation. I was fairly young when I figured there’s a world of music we’re not exposed to, pop was the tip of an iceberg. I dipped my head under, but it was freezing with typecasts, impossible to know where to search to find something affable.

Today, and thank goodness, the internet is a universal reference library, there are no excuses for not thinking outside your geographical sphere. But with anything foreign to your ears, you need to unlearn your ingrained judgements, and listen with an open mind. Rarely something comes along so exclusive and diverse, but with a familiar element to comfort you.

On November 27th Partisan Records will release, Niger-born Tuareg guitar virtuoso Bombino’s first live album as a solo artist, Live in Amsterdam. I’ve had this unique marvel on play for a while now, and if you’re put off by the presumption any African music never relates to our rock music, this could be the introduction to a world outside said sphere.

The ingenious part of this album, other than the atmospheric quality of a live performance, and Bombino’s sublime proficiently with a guitar, is the rich musical palette. It rings with genres you’re accustomed to, shards of funky soul and reggae, which often come into play in African music, but the man, I swear to you now, is the African Jimi Hendrix, so bluesy rock is prominent.

Tuareggae is his self-penned, totally unique genre to define it. The “Tuar” part derives from his own people, the Tuareg people, a Berber ethnic confederation of nomadic pastoralists, which populate the Sahara in a vast area stretching from far southwestern Libya to southern Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. So, what we have here is principally a fusion of these accepted European and American genres with this brand of North African folk.

Just as a bhangra-pop hybrid now appeases western ears, Bombino has something which will placate any preconditioned aversion of African musical styles. In fact, the untrained ear might liken it something Eastern, or middle eastern at least, as it is spoken in Bombino’s native tongue. Note though, his on-the-record fans includes Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, and Robert Plant, and if it’s good enough for them……

This album will not only challenge your presumptions, it’ll do so while drifting you on gorgeous a journey of musical greatness akin to any known bluesman. Bombino knows precisely what buttons to press to evoke a mood, it can drift down a river at times, it can explode into up-tempo funk, but its ambience is awe-inspiring throughout.

Recorded in November of 2019, while Bombino and his band were touring behind his acclaimed latest studio album Deran. Live In Amsterdam is dedicated to the loving memory of long time Bombino rhythm guitarist and vocalist Illias Mohamed Alhassane, who sadly and suddenly passed away in September. The recording, then, features Illias in his final performance with his ‘brothers’ in Bombino’s band. Yet, you need no background, not really, if you’re looking for something different, but with shards of something familiar, if you like either blues, reggae, rock or funk, or if you want to be taken on a musical journey beyond your usual perimeters, Bombino is your newfound gem. You don’t have to thank me, but you will; I’m here all week.


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