Nov 17

My Pop Year: IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE – “The Chant (Iquo Isang)”

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There seems to be a lot of music around at the moment involving a fusion of more acoustic – I don’t want to say ‘traditional’ – African musics, or African vocal pop traditions, and electronic production. Of course a hell of a lot of contemporary African pop already is hip-deep in ‘electronic production’, if by that you mean hip-hop, EDM, autotune, etc. But that’s not the stuff I’m talking about, which tends to look a few decades back on both sides of the equation, sounding a bit like a collision between a Rough Guide CD and a Warp Records compilation.

Which is great, lovely even, deeply atmospheric and setting up a dialogue of sounds and approaches that can be very rewarding even if its actual ‘utility’ is suspect. Mostly the format is a European producer or musician travelling out to a part of Africa and collaborating with local musicians, somewhat along the lines of Damon Albarn’s Mali Music project. Much respect, such discovery, and so on: great care generally taken to avoid seeming too touristic.

Ibibio Sound Machine is nothing like those records, which aren’t on this list, but I mentioned them because ISM get described in those kind of fusion-y terms – “updating West African styles” and so on, which I reckon gets the wrong end of things entirely. Ibibio Sound Machine are a UK-Nigerian band of, I think, loose membership but built around singer Eno Williams. What they are isn’t an ‘update’ of anything – no such hierarchical ideas obtain. What they are is a London band making ferociously good party music. Utility and this band are easy bedfellows. (There’s an equivalence of spirit – shitkicking music from a London immigrant tradition – with the Pogues as much as with anyone).

The thrilling, laserbeam-powered call-to-arms of single “Give Me A Reason” won them an awful lot of friends, but “The Chant (Iquo Isang)” is just as propulsive and just as good, a snapshot of liberation and a study in urgency. The draw for me is how that squiggle of a synth riff, after carrying half the music on its own, gets joined by the exultant horns and rasping second vocalists, and the song spends its last minute in ascension to a very righteous place indeed.

From the LP Uyai


  1. 1
    Ed on 22 Nov 2017 #

    Ibibio Sound Machine, surely? Like Miami, not LCD.

    (They sound terrific, BTW. Investigating immediately.)

  2. 2
    Tom on 22 Nov 2017 #

    Ahhh how embarrassing! Thankyou. I’ve not even heard the LCD album. Honour now restored.

  3. 3
    Alex on 24 Nov 2017 #

    I saw this lot play at the Village Underground a few years ago! Cracking.

  4. 4
    Cinema Box App on 25 Nov 2017 #

    This is one of the best articles I have come across. Keep up the good work.

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