Ibibio Sound Machine @ The Scala, London, 23/10/2017

Ibibio Sound MachineThere can be few words more terrifying to the purists among us than ‘fusion’. Be it in fashion, food or music, there’s something unsavoury, or even crass, about the concept of mixing up two good things – or even something good with something less so – into some kind of garish Frankenstein’s monster, that caters for a babyish palate too unsophisticated to appreciate the idiosyncratic beauty of the constituent elements in isolation.

That said, there are occasions where two disparate threads can come together to create something that just makes sense. Korean tacos, for instance – you don’t have to even eat one, it’s conceptually sound. An old times classy English gent wearing a Moroccan fez, that’s sound. Enjoy it, sir, you look the business. And Nigerian highlife music mixed with electro party funk – fuck it, that’s wonderful.

That’s what’s on the menu tonight for eight-piece Ibibio Sound Machine, and it is unquestionably a good time. It only works, however, when they are in a punchier gear. This is the mode for the first and last third of the set; with the band in full flow, the brass blaring, the percussion machine-gunning, the room is joyfully alive – it’s impossible not to be having a bloody brilliant time dancing around to the big sound of this 8-piece operation.

For the middle third, they slow the pace, however – this is a bit less forgiving on their sound, which sounds a little bit naff here, pervaded with wah-wah and bongos. Maybe it’s necessary for a bit of variation in pace and texture, but basically, you feel a sort of tensed hush as they kick off each number, hoping against hope that they’re going to go hard. Indeed, here’s the part where one laments the fusion a little bit. How about instead of that bloated sub-Stone Roses wah sound, why not incorporate a bit more of the tinny, high fret exultation of highlife, eh?

One member of Ibibio Sound Machine with whom it is impossible to find fault is the wonderful frontperson, and probably a human being, Eno Williams. She seems very much to be having the time of her life, and cliché though it may be, her joy is properly infectious. Her stage presence is a pleasing combination of larger-than-life born performer and humility, which serves to engenders a feeling that she genuinely wants you to be having as good a time as her.

Well, she needn’t be concerned on that front – you could probably have a good time making a slice of a toast with her...


One Response to “Ibibio Sound Machine @ The Scala, London, 23/10/2017”


    1. Ibibio Sound Machine @ The Scala, London, 23/10/2017 – Live List - 27/10/2017

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