Led by London-born Nigerian, Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine present a combination of the familiar and the unusual: bringing together a smattering of US/UK pop, disco and synth sounds with Highlife, the West African super-genre that dominates popular music in Ghana and Nigeria.
Beyond the clashing of two, seemingly distinct, musical heritages, Ibibio‘s latest single ‘Give Me A Reason’ also combines the band’s mix of backgrounds, with verses sung in the Ibibio language of Nigeria and the titular refrain of the chorus in English.
The idea of combining two, or more, genres and cultures in song is not especially new, but Ibibio’s emergence has come at a time of renewed interest in West African music, with bands such as Mali’s Songhoy Blues and and DRC’s Mbongwana Star finding success by putting new spins on traditional sounds. But the difference here, and Ibibio‘s real strength, lies with its lead singer.
The song starts with Eno’s first lyric and her voice is about as near to constant as feasibly possible, allowing it to act as a linking device between the disparate strains of disco-rhythm guitar, carnival whistles, Gary Numan era synths and soul horns.
And that’s the key here. Ibibio’s new album, Uyai – translated as ‘beauty’ – deals with themes of empowerment and freedom, with ‘Give Me A Reason’ addressing the need for education, in particular. It is Eno’s image that is all over promotional material for the band’s singles and her voice (and her story) carries the song and its message all the way, ensuring you’ll be reflecting, contemplating and, most importantly, dancing, for months to come.
Uyai, the upcoming album from Ibibio Sound Machine, is set for release 3 March on Merge Records.