LondonMusicThe Womxn Movement

kokoroko, the kings & queens of london afrobeat

March 5, 2020
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It is undeniable that Lagos is the ancestral birthplace of Afrobeat, but spare a thought for London as one of the music’s great outposts. It was a one-time home to Afrobeat’s founding father, Fela Kuti, hosting many of his live gigs and early-’70s recording sessions. And because of the sustained post-independence ties between England and Nigeria, Afrobeat has continued flowing through London’s rich musical bloodstream, affecting much of its homegrown music. Some of that local influence can be laid at the feet of Dele Sosimi, a London-born Nigerian who was the musical director for Fela’s great second band, Egypt 80 (and later, for Femi Kuti’s Positive Force), still teaching the way of the master. And lots of its current local power rests with Kokoroko, an eight-piece of all-star musicians from the LDN improvisation and jazz scene playing a decidedly London version of the music. It was Sosimi who inspired their newest single, “Carry Me Home,” a soulful Afrobeat anthem.

Also dedicated to two recent familial passings in the band’s family — trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey’s cousin, and percussionist Onome Edgeworth’s grandfather — “Carry Me Home” continues doing what Kokoroko’s London-style Afrobeat excels at: using layers of melody to extract deep, rich many-sided emotions, then mixing it with a wide, churning rhythm. Maurice-Grey, saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi and trombonist Richie Seivwright move between horn blasts and charts that sound like they could be Sosimi-arranged classics, or laying down gorgeous three-part harmony vocals on the theme of moving towards a “home” that could be either a spiritual end-place — or just one to rest your head. In other words, a great tune to drop when announcing your first American tour.