Elikeh | Between 2 Worlds

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Between 2 Worlds

by Elikeh

Elikeh mixes funk, rock, jazz with traditional west African rhythms (Togolese polyrhythms) to produce captivating Afro-pop tunes that are as listenable as they are danceable. Elikeh’s music has no borders, exploring global themes and personal odysseys.
Genre: World: African- West
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  Song Share Time Download
1. No Vision
3:36 $0.99
2. Know Who You Are
4:58 $0.99
3. Alonye (feat. Vieux Farka Toure)
4:26 $0.99
4. Olesafrica (Ojah Awake)
5:04 $0.99
5. Fly to the Sky
3:55 $0.99
6. Foot Soldier
3:49 $0.99
7. Eh Wee
4:55 $0.99
8. Let Them Talk
4:58 $0.99
9. Nye'n Mind Na Wo (feat. John Kadlecik)
4:55 $0.99
10. Nye Dji
3:20 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Drums Are Burning: Afrofunk Politics and Party Grooves Fall into Place on Elikeh’s Between 2 Worlds

The eight-member group knows how to get the fire burning. They channel that energy into funkified pop anthems and thoughtful critiques of corruption, ignorance, and cultural neglect. Now on Between 2 Worlds (Azalea City Recordings; release: August 23, 2012), the group digs deep into the African vintage pop inspiration, the reggae vibes, and the current craze for African-inflected funk and blues on an album that easily straddles two continents.

With bold brass, interlocking percussion, and a sixth sense for the groove, Elikeh mixes precision with just enough raw power to pack a punch. Joined by Malian guitar whiz Vieux Farka Toure (“Alonye”) and jam guitar master John Kadlecik (Furthur, Dark Star Orchestra; “Nye’n mind na wo”), Between 2 Worlds moves from Togolese roots and beats to purring organ and hot grooves, from immigrant alienation to exhortations to keep one’s culture and sense of self (“Know Who You Are”).

“I always describe Elikeh’s music as like taking Fela Kuti and mixing him with Bob Marley. Put in a pot and stir for three minutes and add some Osibisa and Togolese traditional music to it and let it all boil for two more minutes,” Dogo laughs. “Then you add a sprinkle of rock and you have Elikeh.”

{full story below}

Massama Dogo and Elikeh have long been striving to get people under that tree, shaking it to those drums.

Dogo’s original impetus for starting a band began back home in Togo, a place that still inspires and distresses him. He longed to hear more of the music rooted in local traditions, in a scene dominated by rap, synths, and playback. Dogo himself had cut his teeth playing with a variety of reggae and pop bands around Lomé, Togo’s biggest city and capital.

But Dogo wants to do more than incorporate tradition into well-arranged pop. He wants to change his compatriots’ minds. In songs like “No Vision” and “Foot Soldier,” Dogo calls for people in his homeland and across Africa to see what he feels is the true source of the poverty and inequality that haunts Dogo every time he returns home.

“When I’ve gone to Togo, I’ve gone to touch base with my country and ancestors, and really see what’s going on there,” Dogo explains, describing a recent trip home. “People need to defend themselves. It’s not the West that’s the main problem; it’s the leaders,” leaders Dogo repeatedly takes to task for their greed and unwillingness to serve the people.

But Dogo and Elikeh inhabit another world beyond West Africa and its joys and struggles. Winding up as an immigrant in Washington DC in 2000, Dogo unknowingly landed in an unlikely African music pop hotspot. Home to musicians from across Africa—as well as skilled and versatile musicians from jazz, funk, and classical backgrounds—Dogo soon gathered a crack team of diverse, Afropop-loving players. Many of them, including Nigerian lead guitarist Frank Martins, knew how closely politics and music are entwined: Martins was arrested when authorities heard that his upcoming record had political leanings. Once freed, he fled for London and eventually landed in the U.S.

Over time, Elikeh became more than a simple vehicle for Dogo’s vision; it became a tight musical collective with a seasoned sound and distinct sensibility, a band that united two worlds. That’s why Dogo and the band decided to record their next album in Togo, Mali, and DC, bringing in both current bellwethers of African popular music (Vieux Farka Toure’s dazzling Malian blues guitar work) and musicians drawing on American rock roots (Kadlecik’s vocal and instrumental response to Dogo’s urgent calls in Togo’s Mina language).

These sonic conversations lie at the heart of the album. With an almost delicate, vintage sound, Toure strikes up a conversation with Dogo, and Malian master Mamadou Cherif Soumano’s sparkling kora contrasts with Kadlecik’s rock lines. The back-and-forth echoes both traditional call-and-response and the complexities of the immigrant experience Dogo explores and breaks down in his songs.

The two worlds Elikeh operates in are audible in other ways, as well. “Eh Wee” rips from a rock start to a steady groove, and tracks inspired by UK-Ghanaian funk band Osibisa capture some of the band’s genre-hopping vintage glitz (“Olesafrica”). Though Fela is the best known Afrobeat patriarch, Elikeh rethinks the Sierra Leonean Afro-soul legend Geraldo Pino’s hit, “Let Them Talk.” Pino blew Fela’s mind back when he was finding his musical way, and has been rediscovered in the wake of Fela’s own revival.

“This song made the album because it really echoes our experience,” Dogo notes with a smile. “If in your heart you know what you are doing is right, go for it , and don't listen to what people are saying.”



to write a review

Matt Cole (DooBeeDooBeeDoo contributor)

Elikeh jumping "Between 2 Worlds"
Review by Matt Cole (this review is published in http://www.doobeedoobeedoo.info/?p=15991)
It is difficult to even say where the band Elikeh is from; band leader, vocalist, and rhythm guitarist Massama Dogo hails from Togo, in West Africa, and other members of the band come from a diverse array of places, including California, Nigeria, New York, Maryland, and Benin. It is not surprising, then, that their recently-released CD, Between 2 Worlds, shows influences from a wide variety of sources.

The CD was originally described to me as 'Afrobeat,' and while most of the songs on it have a definite Afrobeat-rooted rhythm in the bass and drums, the band brings in and melds ideas from many other traditions which makes for an original, creative, and varied sound on the album. One such mix of ideas is found in “Know Who You Are,” which has an intricate, grooving drum line laid down by Benin native Gabin Assouramou, while Dogo and Nigerian-born (and current Washington, D.C resident) guitarist Frank Martins weave dancing guitar lines reminiscent of JuJu music. As in many of the tracks, the horns are deployed very well, with tasteful horn lines that in this case would be right at home in both a '70s Funk Show or a concurrent show at Fela's Shrine. In “Olesafrica,” a Samba beat is strongly referenced within the Afrobeat core rhythm, and Assouramou takes a strong solo. A couple tracks, the fast, funky “Eh Wee,” (which features a ferocious sax solo) and the spare, almost folky “Nye Dji” even have elements which hint at alt rock.

Elikeh does a good job of mixing things up, too—for example, slow tracks come in several flavors, from the minimal percussion, guitar, and vocals of “Fly to the Sky,” to the funky, soulful, and even bluesy “Foot Soldier.” The lyrics lean toward the socially conscious, notably on the album-opening track “No Vision,” and “Foot Soldier;” frontman Dogo delivers the words in a strong, mellifluous baritone.

Notable guests on the CD include Vieux Farka Toure, who lends his vocals and guitar to “Alonye,” delivering a memorable performance with contrapuntal rhythm playing and a ferocious, nimble solo whose stinging tone reminded me of legendary bluesman Albert Collins; John Kadlecik (lead guitar and vocal) and Mamadou Cherif Soumano (kora) on the soulful track “Nye'n Mind Na Wo,” and organist Jeremy Calligan on “Know Who You Are.”

The album is tracked well and flows nicely, with faster, more energetic songs interspersed with slower songs, and a couple of 6/8 tunes breaking up the songs in 4. The arranging and performances are tastefully done, propulsive when necessary, and spare and gentle when needed.