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London Afrobeat Collective: Esengo


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London Afrobeat Collective: Esengo
Back in the day, when Fela Kuti invented Afrobeat—and yes, unlike practically every other music to emerge in the 20th century, Afrobeat was indeed the creation of one person—the music served two functions: to champion the rights and aspirations of post-colonial Black Africans, particularly those at the bottom of the pyramid, and to provide a soundtrack enabling any and everyone to have a good time.

It is now 27 years since Kuti passed and any Afrobeat worthy of the name still serves a political function, although the message has evolved and diversified as the music has spread out from Nigeria and become global. On a macro level, however, the message continues to be about liberation. And because one would have to be made of stone to fail to respond to its vibe, Afrobeat is still the perfect dancefloor music.

London Afrobeat Collective (LAC) has been spreading the message and lighting up dancefloors since 2010. The eight core musicians hail from England, France, Italy, Congo, Argentina and New Zealand and their take on Afrobeat is similarly rainbow hued. Lead singer Juanita Euka is from Congo—she is a niece of Franco Luambo, the godfather of Congolese rumba—and sings in Lingala and English. Opening track "Topesa Esengo Na Motema" translates as "Let us bring joy (esengo) to the heart" and blends Kuti's instrumental style with Luambo's Cuban-derived approach (see the video below). The song is dedicated to the freedom fighters who drove the Belgian colonialists out of Congo in 1960. Overall, the album tends to favor guitar rather than horn solos, possibly another echo of Luambo, arguably the finest African guitarist of his generation. In the ensemble sections, LAC's horns have classic Afrobeat's stabbing riffs down to a tee, and the solos, when we get them, are gritty.

LAC say their goal is to increase the positive energy in the world by making people dance. Esengo hits the spot.

Track Listing

Topesa Esengo Na Motema; My Way; Take Me To The Sea; Freedom; El Ritmo De Londres; De Kinshasa A Sono Bata.


London Afrobeat Collective
band / ensemble / orchestra
Klibens Michelet
saxophone, baritone
Andy Watts
Alex Szyjanowicz
guitar, electric
Richie Sweet
Additional Instrumentation

Alex Farrell: guitar; John Mathews: bass (2-5); Luigi Casanova: bass (1, 6); Gareth Buckland: piano and organ (5); Pat Kenny: trombone (5); Edmund Swinburn: tenor saxophone (2, 4).

Album information

Title: Esengo | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Canopy Records

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