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premiere: ekiti sound’s “ase” explores nigerian beats

April 24, 2019
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The artist behind the Lagos-based project Ekiti Sound goes by Leke (or CHiF), and is a man with boundless creative energy  that flies in many directions. He’s made a living as sound designer for “Nollywood” films, and is also one of the founders of the Lagos Music Conference, one of West Africa’s first international music industry gatherings. Yet, Leke’s primary outlet has always been the electronic music he’s recorded as Ekiti Sound (and Ekiti Sound System); and after a few singles and remixes on African and European labels, Ekiti Sound is finally dropping its debut album, Abeg No Vex, and AFROPUNK is thrilled to premiere its single, “Ase.”

Like the rest of Abeg No Vex, “Ase” is impossible to easily classify: a crossfire of electronic and drum rhythms, topped with chants full of prayerful blessings. It’s music for ceremonial dance floors and clubs that specialize in spiritual uplift, replete with sturdy musical reference-points, from classic Neptunes hip-hop productions and UK junglism breaks, to Afrobeat foundations of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen. This sonic diversity speaks to Leke’s own creative point of view, which came into focus in both Nigeria and Britain, when he shuttled between the two countries as a youth (following his engineer father, he calls himself “an airport baby”). On the occasion of AFROPUNK’s premiere of “Ase,” we asked Leke about those influences and about the spiritual qualities of “Ase.”

Your music has a lot of different musical elements, and you spent the first part of your life in both the UK and Nigeria. Can you talk a little bit about how your time in the two countries influenced different parts of Ekiti Sound’s music?

Lagos is where I write the music, where the stories take form. Studio is round the corner from the New Afrika Shrine, it’s on the mainland of Lagos. Lagos is the drums. When I’m in Lagos, the groove is the syncopated pulsing polyrhythmic pace. The low extended compositions are like sitting in go-slow traffic on Third Mainland Bridge. Lagos taught me about fuji, juju, highlife, Afrobeats, and it was in Obalende that I heard the album Ready to Die, by Biggie Smalls. I heard jungle music for the first time in Nigeria, it was Jungle Hits Vol 1, it blew my mind. But I never really understood the magnitude of jungle until I got to London and went to my first jungle rave.

I had never experienced a true electronic and drum-heavy clubbing experience ’til I got into London. London gave me the low end, the clash of cultures that illicits and encourages fusion. Food, fashion, film styles. London is a true example of a historic cosmos.

We the Afropolitan people can be found everywhere. London is a place that nurtured an open-minded approach to creativity in my music. I am comfortable, based on my hip-hop mindset and my London roots, sharing and sampling sonics or aesthetics from a myriad of places. London gives the album, the melting-pot feel. It sounds like nothing you’ve heard before but feels like something you’ve known a long while. London gave me house and garage, 2-step, dubstep, grime, jazz, ragga, basement, soca, dub, electro-swing. The festivals in the UK are some of the best in the world, so composing music of a world scale, knowing how it feels to have a field full of ravers blow their minds to it, encourages larger and punchier arrangements, and deeper basses.

There is great social power in the Yoruban term, “Ase.” How are you using it here? What purpose does it have? And how does it fit with the music?

Ase is me giving my music the intention of its sound. Ase gives a thread to the fragments of diverse sound that contribute to the album. Ase creates the world of Ekiti Sound. Ase is the “secret.” What the western world calls “the power of manifestation.” For me Ase is less; “Think and grow rich” and more; “Think and grow happier.” I wanted to create a new narrative of African music of world music. Could I change how I told our story, can I change how our Nigerian alternative music is perceived, what new soundscape or palette could I create. Ase is Yoruba mental super powers. Think it and conceive it.

Ekiti Sound’s album debut, Abeg No Vex, drops on Crammed Discs in late April.