An eclectic mash-up melting pot of London’s most treasured influences, the eight-piece collectives’ debut Could We Be More is a self-assured soother for the mind and soul.
Of course, We’ve had our fair share of enigmatic tightly-sealed London-based afrobeat collectives on here before, with the might of Ezra Collective received an honourable mention with their stoic Where I’m Meant To Be earlier this year. With Kokoroko even featuring on Ezra Collective’s first You Can’t Steal My Joy, it’s no wonder that these two collectives are lighting the ‘young British jazz scene’ on fire. Alongside the musically empowering Ezras of our time, Kokoroko are equally indulgent.
With the jazzy solo wisps from band leader and trumpeter, Sheila Maurice-Grey and Cassie Kinoshi on the sax, a star cast blend and offer up a melting pot of discovery as they evoke the joyous springboards of West Africa, and ultimately collate it into a defining scrapbook of global groove and jazz-funk. Which for me, will always be a universally underrated hyphenated phrase you could ever say in the world of music.
When Abusey Junction blew up online in the latter stages of 2018/2019 with Brownswood Recordings, it was only a matter of time that they would announce a debut album. But for the Londoners, it’s more than just playing, “if we don’t play this music, a piece of our culture is lost.” That’s what it’s all about. To them – and many of us that seek exploration and understanding the world of Afrobeats and jazz – it’s more than notes on a page. It’s certainly not a random collection of disparate forms. It’s their world. A tightly-woven system as they each have their moment.
Highlife stand out, We Give Thanks, is a frantic number of style and pan-ash. The guitars’ canoodling is just effervescent as it washes over the brazen release of harmonised horns, as the siren-swooning of lead vocals eclipse the whole passage, bring it to an electric close. The follow up of Those Good Times was the first single released ahead of the anticipated debut. With the soulful vocals and African-influenced instrumentals, is it any wonder. Sometimes all an instrumental album needs is a solid grip to draw you in and Those Good Times does exactly that. A blazoning representation of Kokoroko at their finest.
Of course, the African influence from the likes of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen is strong from the get-go, as the percussive undertones of both flared Tojo and interval Blue Robe (pt i) drive the beating heart of rhythm – a critical component in anything Afrobeat.
Ewà Inú is perhaps exactly what it say it is. A watermark of beauty in a person’s true nature, as this 6-minute masterpiece carves out a message as they share their respect for the loved art before them. Age of Ascent and Something’s Going On brings in a contemporary thesis as an edge of electric soul is brought to the mix. All before the Outro wraps up conclusive proof that the UK Afrobeat and Jazz scene is as powerful as ever.