Ikwunga
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Ikwunga

Columbia, Maryland, United States | INDIE

Columbia, Maryland, United States | INDIE
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"JOHN STEVENSON'S TOP 15 LATIN, CARIBBEAN AND AFRICAN DISCS FOR 2005"

Jazz News 1. Oliver Mtukudzi, Nhava (Heads Up)
2. Trio Da Paz, Somewhere (Blue Toucan)
3. Richard Rogers, et al, BINGO: Songs for children in English with Brazilian and Caribbean Rhythms (Sound Brush)
4. John Santos Y El Coro Folklorico, Para Ellos (Machete)
5. Hilary Noble and Rebecca Cline, Enclave (Zoho)
6. Ikwunga, Calabash: Afro-Beat Poems Vol 1 (Rebisi Hut)
7. Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band: Rumba Buhaina (The Music of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers) (Random Chance)
8. Hagberg/Bergeron Quartet, Jobim Now (Teal Creek)
9. Freshly Ground, Nomvula (Sony/BMG)
10. Luiz Bonfa, Solo in Rio (Smithsonian/Folkways)
11. Mozayik, Haitian Creole Jazz (Zoho)
12. Arturo O'Farill, Live in Brooklyn (Zoho)
13. Mark Weinstein, Algo Mas (Jazzheads)
14. Milton Nascimento, Courage (Universal)
15. Richard Bona, Tiki, (Verve)
- eJazzNews Readeron Friday, December 23, 2005 - 11:05 AM


"Various Artists ASAP: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project"

I'm hoping that the people reading this review are aware of the war in Darfur. Our media have shied away from calling it that, preferring the word genocide, which certainly applies, and the rather loathsome euphemism "ethnic cleansing," a term I've always thought inadequate and much too polite for confronting human savagery at its worst. It is a war, though, separate from the decades-long fight that engulfed the southern half of Sudan until the signing of a peace agreement earlier this year, but similar to that conflict in that the totalitarian Sudanese central government has responded to local black African unrest with a coordinated campaign of destruction, allowing Arab militias known as Janjaweed carte blanche to burn, pillage, kill, and expel, even in areas where no uprising exists. The express purpose of the campaign, which is indisputably backed by the Sudanese regular military, is to erase Darfur's black African (I refer to them as opposed to the country's Arab population-- Sudan has a complicated ethnic and religious composition owing to its colonial background) population and their homes along with them.

The resulting human flight from Darfur has brought thousands of refugees to neighboring Tchad, a nation in no financial or material shape to accommodate them, and various camps within Sudan, where they survive thanks mostly to international largesse. Without foreign eyes, it's likely that Sudan would simply press its offensive and proceed with its naked genocide-- unfortunately, the interest of foreign governments is fickle, and a brief outcry in the halls of the UN has devolved into ineffectual grandstanding and squabbling over how best to address the situation. Of course, the delicacy of governments like ours in dealing with the Khartoum regime is at least partially driven by interest in the oil resources that government controls, and it's left up to non-governmental organizations to provide aid, food and shelter for a massive displaced populace in a part of the worldÐthe eastern fringe of the Sahara-- not known for its hospitable conditions.

This background established, ASAP: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project is a compilation aimed at providing funds for the sundry organizations involved in Darfur relief, and all proceeds from its sale go directly to the cause, with no profit to any of the parties involved-- the artists, Modiba Productions, Ben Cohen's True Majority and Apple's iTunes store, the latter two being the discs's exclusive distributors (True Majority offers the disc at its website, iTunes obviously offers a download). As the reviewer, I'll say up front that this is a charitable cause I believe in and that in my opinion the donation would be worth making regardless of the contents of the disc. The rating up top reflects perhaps a bit of that conviction on my part, but this caveat is almost unnecessary-- this compilation is solid from any perspective and represents a fine introduction to the modern descendants of the 1970s Afropop.

It's a truly multinational mix, with performers from the U.S., Africa, and Europe, most of whom have called multiple continents home at some point in their lives. The American contingent revolves around New York City's modern Afrobeat orchestras, Antiabalas, Kokolo, and Akoya, and all have donated spectacular tracks for the cause. Antibalas offers a smoking live version of "Uprising" full of maniacal sax solos and burbling neo-Africa 70 rhythms, while Akoya's "USA" is a striking denouncement of unilateralism with a huge horn arrangement and a great vocal from Kaleta, an Afrobeat veteran who's recorded with both Fela Kuti and Fela's son Femi. Kokolo's two tracks are both excellent: "Mister Sinister" careens over whiplash horns into a dub midsection and "More Consideration" does something lyrically that almost no funk or Afrobeat ever does, lamenting the inequality of women in cultures the world over.

The African artists, most of whom were born in Nigeria and are now based in the U.S., contribute songs in a wide array of styles, most of which are actually less indebted to Fela than their American counterparts. Ikwunga's "Di Bombs" is spoken poetry with a chugging Afrobeat backing, Ikwunga intoning evenly and calmly, "Di jets di jets/ Di jets are built in Germany/ But the air raids are for Freetown/ The air raids are for Asmara." Keziah Jones offers up thumping r&b on "Garan Garan," with an ultra-simple bass and drum groove backing up his vocal, which is based on an old Nigerian folk tune. Dele Sosimi and Franck Biyong & Massak each throw down monstrous slabs of deep Afrogroove, but the biggest revelation here might be Wumni, whose hyperkinetic dance track "What a See" is tailor-made for a post-M.I.A. world. She dives sweating into a sumptuous beat with rubbery rapping and spastic scatting for a result that's stunning and difficult to classify.

For good measure, there's even a classic mid-70s Tony Allen track ("Progress") to sweeten the deal, though - Pitchfork Media: Record Reviews


"Africa on your Street with Rita Ray"

Ikwunga - Di Bombs from ASAP: The AFROBEAT SUDAN AID PROJECT (iTunes) One of the many gifted Afrobeat artists from around the globe who have come together in response to the suffering of the 1.8 million refugees of Darfur. Once the regular opening act at the Afrika Shrine, Ikwunga is a beat poet disciple of Fela Kuti. With the help of Femi Kuti and Dele Sosimi he introduced Afrobeat to his poems. Di Bombs is the Afrobeat poet at his rhythmic, articulate, conscious best. Support the cause and buy ASAP www.modiba.net/music.html.

- Rita Ray - British Broad Casting Radio 3 - BBC Radio 3


"Once Again, King Sunny Ade Takes Washington By Storm!"

By Kwame Fitzjohn
WI Contributing Writer
Friday, April 8, 2005; Page 24

Currently touring the U.S. through the end of April, King Sunny Ade once again brought the house down in Washington -- as he’s distinguished himself in doing many times over for almost two decades -- in an engaging performance at the Lincoln Theater on Friday, during Easter weekend. The Nigerian King of Juju music electrified the packed house till 3 a.m. with his earthy percussion-laden music. It was laced with Hawaiian guitar sounds, juju music, of which he’s the unchallenged boss on the planet!

It was truly an interactive experience. This was not a concert; it was a party- a royal night celebration. The opening acts were Ikwunga, Afrobeat Poet/Psychiatry Professor at the University of Maryland, who performs poetry to the upbeat music of another Nigerian music giant, the late great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti of Afro-rock renown. Ikwunga’s verse, too, is Fela-like, cutting edge and radically refreshing: “Cocoa. Dey grow for Nigeria. Dey grow for Ibadan. But we dey buy chocolate from Belgium. We dey beg chocolate from Belgium.” Unquestionably, we’ll hear more from Ikwunga in the months and years to come.

The next opening act was the rousing highlife (a horns-based, lively, danceable music, native to Ghana) of the well-known Prince Osadebe of Nigeria, an apt forerunner and complement to the King.

Indeed, all 3 performers were of Nigerian descent. The small wonder of the historic Lincoln Theater was suddenly transformed into all things Nigerian: the attire, the food, the conversation in Yoruba during intermission, and, of course, the main ingredient, the tunes and songs! The high point of the evening, however, was when audience members, Blacks and Whites alike, trooped to the stage and began ‘spraying’ the King with dollar bills. Literally thousands were plastered on his sweaty forehead that fell on the floor, for which he reciprocated by showering praises on all givers in the tradition of an African court singer known, down through the ages, as ‘yaeliba’.

Kwame Fitzjohn is a producer of “Africa Meets Africa”, 89.3 FM Pacifica Radio and co-presenter of PulseAfricaTV scheduled to begin airing on Public TV this summer.

April 10, 2005







- Washington Informer


"Mr. Something Something And Ikwunga The Afrobeat Poet"

On Deep Sleep, Mr Something Something return for a third outing in fine form. The spotlight on this album is on Ikwunga The Afrobeat Poet, who dominates vocal duties throughout the album. The match is a fantastic one, and very effective. Ikwunga offers a striking and dynamic vocal style to augment the bubbling Afrobeat grooves. His lyrics are also in line with Mr. Something Something’s social consciousness, as he addresses third world poverty, imperialism, and the pitfalls of modernity. The role of Mr Something Something vocalist Johan Hultqvist is diminished on this outing, but he shines in his limited backing function, offering a refreshing and smooth contrast to Ikwunga’s more stilted, vibrant poetry, particularly on “Di Bombs” and “You Are Beautiful”. While Ikwunga takes the spotlight, it is the music that is most noteworthy. In the past the band has seemed a bit too urgent in their delivery, but the musicians are firmly in pocket on Deep Sleep. The result is a beautifully rich sound, with impressive interplay between the players and tastefully restrained playing. There is no excessive soloing on Deep Sleep, and it is clear that the songs have been constructed with care and precision. With their third release, Mr Something Something make it clear that they are not interested in imitation, while constructing a firm case for themselves as Canada’s premiere Afrobeat band.

By Peter Bradley
Jun 11, 2008

- EarShot Reviews


"Ikwunga: Calabash – Afrobeat Poems (Rebisi Hut/Dele Sosimi)"

Ikwunga is one of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s musical children, he is also the missing link between Allen Ginsberg and Gil Scott Heron. Ikwunga, a Nigerian professor of psychiatry based in Maryland, mixes spoken word, jazz, Afrobeat and soul, uttering pithy observation about the global scene and Africa (Di Bombs) and dipping into his romantic bag top bring out danceable pieces such as I Don love. The jazz riffs and arrangements of Dele Sosimi provide a plush pocket for Ikwunga’s flights of poetic fancy.

Barry Romberg: Barry Romberg’s Random Access part 3 (Romhog)

- eJazz News - Canada: September 2005


"Political Poetry Set to an Afrobeat"

Ikwunga's track "Di Bombs" opens with a catchy percussion line that sets feet tapping before the horns even enter. Next we hear the horn section layer over the syncopated drums and it starts to sound like a funky jazz song, almost along the lines of James Brown. The true meaning of the song is not revealed, however, until Ikwunga's poetry begins: "Di bombs, di bombs are made in London, di bombs are made in London, but dey bombing us in Congo." Ikwunga is a certified psychiatrist iin Maryland, but he grew up in Nigeria. The poet works to bring a strong political message wtih music as well as to break down stigmas about mental illness.

By Louise Pierce - Sound Check Washingtonpost.com/mp3 June 2006


"Mr. Something Something & Ikwunga The Afrobeat"

Toronto’s Mr. Something Something has been trading in Afrobeat since their self-titled debut back in 2004. But where their Brooklyn counterparts Antibalas have recently prodded the form into its most exciting mutations, Mr. SS leverage a certain authenticity with the inclusion of Ikwunga the Afrobeat poet on their third effort, Deep Sleep. The sextet provide a solid foundation for Ikwunga to craft his mysteriously suggestive and often wholly incendiary verses on “D.N.D.A.b.p.” and “Abankwa” — showcasing classic Afrobeat characteristics including syncopated melodies, technically compelling grooves and layered vocals — but sacrifice his poignant indictment of manufacturing nations for a slick funk chorus on “Di Bombs.” Before the inclusion of three radio edits, the album proper ends on the title track’s narcoleptic groove, which boasts some lively horn lines despite its name. Fela’s legacy remains well-maintained here in Toronto.

BY Chris Bilton October 25, 2007 - EYE WEEKLY


"The First Afrobeat Poet"

Some new releases on Tonic (heard at 6pm today), from Share, Ron Davis, and Mr. Something Something. I've heard the new Mr. Something Something, and it's really a showcase for the massively deep-voiced poet, Ikwunga.

If you don't know the Somethings, they're a Canadian Afrobeat band, in the tradition of the great Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti, but with lots of their own original style. Ikwunga is sometimes called "the first Afrobeat poet," and his voice is really quite compelling. The songs are v. political, but not earnest, thankfully, nor do they browbeat. But they also don't pussyfoot around -- it's strong stuff.

Here's a little video teaser for the new CD, Deep Sleep, but you may also want to check out this video version of Ikwunga performing Di Bombs, a hard hitting piece that also appears on Deep Sleep.

Posted by Li Robbins on November 4, 2007 - CBC Radio 2 Blog


"MR. SOMETHING SOMETHING & IKWUNGA Deep Sleep (World Records)"

"Life is sweet in Toronto," declaims poet Ikwunga but it's not a compliment. He is citing yet more evidence that rich countries exploit black populations, or specifically that contented Toronto tea-drinkers reap the benefit of sugarcane grown by impoverished farmhands in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago. Ikwunga is a Baltimore psychiatrist who grew up in Nigeria. As a young man he fashioned himself the first poet of Afrobeat, the fusion of Yoruba music, jazz and funk, and sometimes appeared at the storied Afrika Shrine nightclub with late Afrobeat king Fela Kuti. Mr. Something Something is a blue-eyed Toronto Afrobeat band with a reputation for lively club shows. Their 2006 album The Edge drew a Juno nomination. On Deep Sleep, perhaps to strengthen their Nigerian connection, they make baritone-voiced Ikwunga their front man in five songs of social and political import, three of which are repeated in radio edits. Top track: "Di Bombs," which includes the Toronto reference. Ikwunga also recorded the number with a different band for the 2004 album ASAP: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project to help Darfur victims.

By John Goddard - The Star


Discography

AFROBEAT POETOGRAPHY:

DEEP SLEEP: MR SOMETHING SOMETHING AND IKWUNGA THE AFROBEAT POET
A World Records Production
Recorded at World Records Studios Toronto by John MacLean
Mixed at Subterranean Sound by Scott Lake
Mastered at The E Room by Peter J. Moore
Mix Assistant: Ryan Altschuler
Produced by John MacLeand
All music by Graves/MacLean (SOCAN)
except Di Bombs: Ikwunga / Sosimi / Hultqvist
All musical arrangements by Graves / MacLean
Afrobeat poems by Ikwunga
Design by Simon Farla

Calabash: Afrobeat Poems by Ikwunga Vol.1:
Ikwunga’s debut; Calabash is a concept album that pioneers a new and authentic dimension to Afrobeat, defines Afrobeat poetry and how it should be presented, and remains true to a literary work of art. Calabash Vol.1 introduces the confluence of a new spoken word (Afrobeat poetry), a new contemporary Afrobeat (produced by Dele Sosimi) with a distinguished modern-day African art and graphic design (illustrations for the poems by Chima Eze and Graphic/Album design by Geoffrey Olisa). The album is truly a collector’s item. Already inching up the World Music Charts, Calabash has set the gold standard for a sub-genre of spoken word/Afrobeat, and how it should be presented.

Ikwunga featured on the Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project Compilation:
It is an honor to contribute an Afrobeat poem (Di Bombs) to this noble cause that is geared to raise awareness and funds for the victims of the genocide in Darfur Sudan. Estimates place the number of lives lost at about a quarter of a million. This compilation under the auspices of Modiba Productions, TrueMajority and Apple computers is to be released on Apple’s iTunes in November, and features an eclectic collection of Afrobeat from top-notch Afrobeat artists like Antibalas, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, Dele Sosimi, Franck Biyong, Keziah Jones, Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestrea, Massak, Tony Allen, and Wunmigirl. Your support for this album goes directly towards making a positive change in the lives of fellow citizens of our global village. The album has already generated over $180,000, which has been sent to Sudan.

Ikwunga featured on the Essential Afrobeat Compilation:
The 3 CD Essential Afrobeat (Family Recordings/Universal Music) has been compiled by Dele Sosimi who joined Fela Kuti's band when he was 16 and became Fela's musical director by the age of 21. Sosimi has included classic tracks from all the main Afrobeat players (Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Tony Allen, Orlando Julius, Youssou N'Dour, Hugh Masekela, Salif Keita) plus more modern takes on it from Fatboy Slim, DJ Food and Knuf (the spanish Daft Punk and Funk spelt backwards to boot). The album is pure energy and pure party music, and is perhaps the very best compilation of organic Afrobeat yet. There is a Bonus Afrochill CD that contains more mellowed Afrobeat tracks from the likes of Antibalas, James Brown, Afro Dizz, Lijadu Sisters and Ikwunga. Ikwunga’s “I don love” rounds out this Afrochill CD with distinction.

Ikwunga's Di Bombs is also featured on Indestructible African Beats 2005.

Di Bombs Instrumental (Dele Sosimi Cut) The Junks Remix featured in Sound Affects:Africa, a new double CD released by Bottletop UK.

Tic Talk, a new AbP by Ikwunga is featured in the "37 State" compilation by Most Records UK 2006

Calabash CD is played as inflight entertainment on South African Airlines

Abp Ikwunga featured at WordFest: Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival October 2008

Photos

Bio

Ikwunga The First Afrobeat Poet

‘Deep Sleep’, the second album from the first afrobeat poet and originator of afrobeat poetry, Nigerian afrobeat poet (aka Abp) Ikwunga, is a collection of highly danceable tracks infused with a fine collection of African proverbs and words of wisdom delivered in Ikwunga’s original amalgamation of Pidgin and English, in rhyme. What’s exciting about this new album is that Abp Ikwunga has teamed up with the phenomenal Canadian Afrobeat collective Mr. Something Something. This would be a third album for Mr. Something Something, a highly electrifying and socially conscious band whose sophomore album “The Edge” was nominated for a 2007 JUNO Award for World Music Album of the Year.

Abp Ikwunga whose first album Calabash: Afrobeat Poems by Ikwunga Vol.1, was produced by the King of Afrobeat Keyboards, Dele Sosimi (former musical director of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Egypt 80 Band, and co-founder of Femi Kuti’s Positive Force Band) has shown a striking natural progression as an Abp. Calabash Vol.1 features the hit track, Di Bombs, which featured on the Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (ASAP) compilation CD (Apple iTunes & Modiba Productions). ASAP has raised over $180,000 to benefit victims of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan: Di Bombs was the major download on the ASAP CD. Di Bombs is also a movie soundtrack of the movie “Kassim the Dream”, on Kassim Ouma, the former Ugandan child soldier who is currently the USBA light middle weight champion. Kief Davidson, producer of the critically acclaimed movie, “The Devil’s Miner” (www.thedevilsminer.com), is the producer of “Kassim the Dream” with co-producer Forest Whitaker.

Ikwunga, an American Board Certified Psychiatrist and the son of a famous West African poet and tribal Chief, is of unquestionable afrobeat pedigree…he was a regular opening act for Femi Kuti’s Positive Force at Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s famous Afrika Shrine in Lagos, in the early 90s. He is also a champion for The African Alliance on Mental Illness (TAAMI), which is charged with the task of tackling the stigma attached to mental disorders in Africa and initiating a dialogue for mental health reforms. There is a need to reexamine the assumption that the challenges in Africa are only physical, or that her current growing pains, unrest, displacement of peoples and man-made poverty, are without psychological consequence.

With his collaborative poetic license as the Abp, the Nigerian wordsmith first approached Mr. Something Something about teaming up for a series of Canadian dates. The original music, which sprang from this collaboration, was so strong and the poems so strikingly rich in meaning and delivery that earlier plans for non-collaborative releases by both parties were put on hold until this amazing partnership was put on record.

Deep Sleep addresses the trance state into which World leaders have been lulled and corrupted by circumstances they could not control but may be able to today. Highlife-styled D.N.D.A.b.p. describes the crises in the oil-rich Niger Delta but, in contrast to Fela’s venom, the poet calls for dialogue between the embattled youth and establishment. Di Bombs cleverly and effectively addresses present-day economic imperialism (“Di bombs are built in London / But di bombing is in Congo”) and the lack of political will in the West to tackle poverty in under-developed and emerging nations. Abankwa (let’s dance together) is derived from proverbs of diverse African origin Among the Ibo’s of Eastern Nigeria, these universal “words of wisdom” are referred to as the “palm oil” with which “yam” of wisdom is eaten…You Are Beautiful artfully addresses our collective responsibility as wardens of mother Earth, and the downtrodden, including those with medical conditions of the brain. The title track draws inspiration from Eastern Nigerian rites of passage in which an initiate “travels” to the spirit world where the boundaries of the physical world “of the living” are redefined and the oneness and equality of all humanity is manifest. A poetic image might float out of the speakers, whispered in confidence or it may lead to headlong impact with Abp Ikwunga’s roaring, bellowing conviction in his cause.