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Kokoroko, the future of Afrobeat

By Marc Zisman |

Qobuzissime for the impeccable first album by the London collective, that takes Afrobeat on a journey via improvised jazz, funk and soul.

Those who closely follow the contemporary London jazz scene would know their name very well by now. But Kokoroko had the good sense not to rush into anything and to take their time before recording their first album. Many discovered the collective launched by trumpet player Sheila Maurice-Grey and percussionist Onome Edgeworth with the cool, hit 'Abusey Junction', which closed We Out Here (a Qobuzissime album!), a superb 2018 compilation that served as a manifesto of the aforementioned ebullient scene in the British capital...

Since their formation in 2014, Kokoroko have evolved their stylistic trajectory. Although bringing Afrobeat into the 21st century was their initial goal, we were soon treated to a pile-up of jazz, funk, dub, soul, Caribbean music and psychedelia. With one foot in the African continent (especially Nigeria and Ghana) and the other in multicultural London, Kokoroko boosts their compositions by propping them up against an incredibly solid rhythm section, around which gravitates a hypnotic groove, subtle melodies, often boiling brass lines and, when necessary, beautiful vocal harmonies. Published on Gilles Peterson's label, Brownswood Recordings, Could We Be More is full of a splendid diversity of percussive textures, sounds and instrumental virtuosity. The approach is collective, the effervescence is constant and the record has been conceived as a real album, not as a succession of atmospheres.

There is a real conceptual ambition on Could We Be More, as well as a will to reflect an era, the state of the world and the way us as humans think. Kokoroko are not content to simply pass on the legacy of their predecessors - such as Fela Kuti, the Jazz Warriors or Earth, Wind & Fire - but rather strive to continue to write history and help to shape its future. As Ornette Coleman once said: Tomorrow is the question!


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