Afriquoi (literally Afri-what?) describe their sound as having “one foot in the clubs”, and the group’s fusion of UK electronica with traditional African and Caribbean styles certainly lives up to this. The group has originality in spades, combining unique vocals led by smooth frontman Andre Espeut with the pulsating rhythms of Jallykebba Suso’s Gambian Kora, Fiston Lusambo’s Congolese guitar and Andre Marmot’s mandinka percussion. All of this is underpinned by the masterful production of Nico Bentley who draws on sounds from all over the UK’s dance music scene. The result is entrancing, frenetic and most importantly danceable. In fact the five piece had a packed out Fleece moving from the word go, opening with an extended rendition of their euphoric hit Kudaushe and hardly letting the pace drop for the rest of their performance.
The group obviously loves performing together and this is reflected in their joyous and energetic performance. Tracks like Carnabala and Mokako are wonderful examples of the uplifting power of this synthesis of styles. Unfortunately Afriquoi only seem to have one speed setting, and are so beat dominated that at time it felt rather more like a club set than a gig. This lack of narrative meant that parts of the show felt missable: you could have nipped out and joined back in without feeling like you had really missed anything. Given the group has so much to offer, it’s a shame that the production is given such a central role. Indeed at times the backing track propped up the other elements contributing to a lack of authenticity in parts of the performance. This is harsh criticism though for a group that can create such an electric atmosphere. The crowd was ecstatic throughout and this speaks volumes. Yes, rarely will you go to a gig that is so much fun, Afriquoi throw one hell of a party.
Ludo Graham + Ben Seedhouse