Year upon year, the London African music festival plays host to some of the continent’s finest artists and Femi & The InRhythms, have become a vital part of proceedings. Based between Lagos and London, the group are led by Femi Sofela, a bassist and producer who has played with the African Jazz All Stars and Lekan Babalola among others. His extraordinary ensemble embody all that is inspiring about Nigerian funk and afrobeat: the rhythm, the Yoruba traditions and the electric energy. A blistering horn trio join the the seven-piece ensemble for their headline debut at Band on the Wall next month and in anticipation, we bring you a five-track introduction to the musical world of Femi Sofela.
Femi & The InRhythms – Ranti Ile
Femi & The InRhythms bring jazz, funk and West African music together, in a sound underpinned by Sofela’s Yoruba-English vocals. Ranti Ile reminds the people of the Nigerian diaspora to be mindful of their roots – it’s title translating to mean ‘remember home’. This performance features the excellent Niran Obasa on synth, but it’s the rhythm section, vocals and auxiliary percussion that see it shine most of all!
Funmi Olawumi – Amebo
A fellow member of the Joyful Noise artistic family, Funmi Olawumi is also a founding member of the Yoruba Women Choir and a tremendously important figure in Nigerian music. Her sound is one which mixes “afrobeat, juju, highlife and fuji to create the thrilling ‘faaji’ sound” and her debut solo album Funmi Ti De, was realised with Femi on bass as well as in the producer’s chair. Amebo is a beautiful example of her ‘goodtime’ sound: a complex yet infectious groove from The Faaji Drummers Of Nigeria, warming, major changes on the keyboard and delicate lines of electric guitar rising above and diving beneath the mix.
The Afrobeat Messengers – Lai Lo
Established by Lekan Babalola for his theatre production The Kalakutans, this ensembled shared members with Lekan’s Sacred Funk project and had that same musical understanding. Their track Lai Lo is a quintessential afrobeat number. Suspended chords on the rhodes keyboard, a prominent tone block pattern, funky rhythm guitar and rousing call-and-response vocals.
Niran Obasa – Favour in the City (ft. Femi Sofela)
Niran Obasa’s smooth jazz funk enables Femi to show a different side to his playing. Obasa’s trio arrangement leaves ample space for Femi to occupy, which he does in the latter part of the song – with a high register solo that utilises the range of his five string bass.
Queen Salawa Abeni & Her African Waka Modernisers – Jomi Jomi
Put simply, Queen Salawa Abeni is one of the most influential and important figures in Nigerian music. She has been an active artist for over thirty years and a significant influence on many to have advanced since the time of her debut recordings. Femi posed for a photograph with ‘the Queen of Nigerian music’ in London last year, indicating his respect for the time-honoured vocalist. Jomi Jomi opens one of her earliest albums, made in tribute to their ‘dearly beloved papa’ Alhaji Haruna Ishola. Its propulsive rhythm, featuring agogo bells, hand drums and the drum set, advances the waka musical form, just as her ensemble name suggests!