The London based afro-dub ensemble Fofoulah, have followed-up their trailblazing debut album (“Fofoulah”/Glitterbeat 2014) with an even more shapeshifting and adventurous recording. Slippery sabar beats, dystopian electronics and echoing, shamanic chants ratchet up both the dub quotient and the dramatic tension. Creating a soundworld that is both earthy and urban, futurist and rooted – the new album “Daega Rek” (The Truth) is brought into sharp focus by the rhythms and vocals of Gambian sabar drummer Kaw Secka and the vivid production of keyboardist/saxophonist Tom Challenger.
After the release of their self-titled first album, the band played extensively in the U.K. and Europe where – spontaneously – every concert would see Kaw Secka rise to the microphone (with his tama – a talking drum) and rap over the last song, cuing rhythmic patterns for the group to play in unison (called Bakas). It was decided to take this exploratory part of the shows forward into the next realm.
The concept that emerged for the new album – “Daega Rek” – involved combining recordings of drums and percussion (laid down at Real World Studios) with improvisatory vocalizations and a production aesthetic that pushed the band’s collective sound in a much more electronic and dub-based direction.
The resultant tracks were shaped by Challenger in his studio (Brockley, London), fusing the new rhythm sessions with a variety of manipulated, previous recordings of the band – while also adding an array of synthesizers and a vast sample palette. Secka then came in to lay down vocals and it was these contributions that went on to define the final songs.
Every song has a different meaning, or message, all of them sung in Wolof, a language central to coastal West African countries such as The Gambia and Senegal. Secka’s lyrics explore a myriad of topics – ‘Njite’ for example, focuses on the importance of leadership, and all that it entails; ‘Seye’ (Marriage) explores the nature of human connection; and the title track ‘Daega Rek,’ sets its lens on truth and the riddles of reality.
Says Secka: “The truth is only true; Where is death coming from? Something true, but what is the truth?”
The rhythmic propulsion of the initial recordings made by drummer Dave Smith and Secka at Real World, melds with a backdrop of constantly shifting sonic colors – Johnny Brierley’s deep, melodic bass lines, underpin the evolving patterns of Phil Stevenson’s guitar which in turn, intersect with Challenger’s keyboards and the urgency of Secka’s incantations. The emphasis on the sonic structure and the identity of the material showcases its influences – traditional sabar drumming meeting glitchy electronics; and dub textures blending with elements of footwork and drum & bass.
Moving outward, the band will tour their new show – alongside their original singer and dancer Batch Gueye – and will not only feature the music of “Daega Rek,” but also sounds from their past catalogue cast through a new lens.
Fofoulah remind us that sonics and human experiences combine, resonate and land where they will. “Fortress” mentalities can slow this down, but the spirit of morphing and connectivity still flashes forward.