Unite! That was the message behind each and every bit produce from African culture in the 1970’s, irately placed in front of every listener throughout the Sub-Saharan regions golden era – well, for music and art at least. Whilst the afrobeat icon, Fela Kuti was embroiled in his campaign for a new and tolerant Pan-African styled ideology, one where the entire continent becomes one, the ex-colonial power, the United Kingdom (who had just experienced their own golden era) began its long, grudged hangover, topped with economic stagnation.
Frankly, Kuti’s ideas of Pan-Africanism has now had its hands tied behinds its back and is being held hostage by nationalism, corruption and violence.
It was this golden era felt throughout Nigeria during the 1970’s, which has wound its way through to Manchester and to the hearts of a young Afrobeat piece, named Agbeko. Call them what you want, but they are in no way tied with the crimes of cultural appropriation that so many are guilty of. A quick listen to their latest EP, heroically named ‘Unite’, should stand as proof.
Like traditional Kuti styled Afrobeat, Agbeko have done a shoddy job of hiding their political message. And as of late, the word ‘Brexit’ has become a very, very, very, very dirty word, dividing the UK between left and right. On ‘Unite’, the EP’s name maker, the eleven-piece throw not-so-subtle gestures out into the air to prove which side they stand on, such as:
“Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, UNITE!”, “We are generation rent” and “We are the forty-eight percent”.
In hindsight, Agbeko’s call for unity through the powers of Afrobeat comes off, well, sloppy at most. In the midst of politically turbulent affairs, everything connects, be it the harmonic sax or the lyrical prowess. However, the eleven-piece seem to lack a sense of authenticity. Perhaps this is due to the role of modern Afrobeat now being a form of black unity, taking on forms of Hip Hop, soul and R&B, instead of just funk and jazz.
But by God, Agbeko are so incredibly unique, especially when barely anyone has the balls to replicate something so outrageously ferocious and anti-establishment compared to these guys and their debut, ‘Unite’. In comparison, Slaves already look like middle-class, over-privileged sell outs.
‘Unite’ is available now, the EP can be ordered via the bands Bandcamp. Full tracklisting is as follows: