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Elikeh | Between 2 Worlds

album review by John Powell

Elikeh | Between 2 Worlds

Between 2 Worlds is an aptly title for Elikeh’s Afrobeat album that tracks his East Coast USA music influences and his Togo heritage. This album is rich with tight arrangements, with conscious and inspired lyrics. It is also well produced, halfway between polished and felling live. It’s a gem or a record that any fan of Afrobeat or the related would gorge on. “No Vision”, for example, has a catchy lead guitar riff with humble but forward-moving drums and reggae-esque bass. “How can you lead,” Elikeh asks, “With no vision.” Right off we know this album has an agenda, but it never feels didactic. Elikeh keeps it open enough (always referring to the culprit as “president”) that the song really becomes timeless and worldly.

“Know Who You Are” is more organ driven, but the percussion is no less epic. “Do you know your history?” Elikeh asks while the band sizzles over the groove. “You should know you are, African.” Elikeh’s lyrics are simple, and none too subtle, but he escapes over-sharing because he’s tactful and doesn’t over indulge on the lyrics portion. He believes in the sound, wanting the groove to temper.

The guitars, throughout, have near-Dire Straights coolness to them, dessert-blues; however, the horns, percussion, and bass, pull in from all directions, thus making the title Between 2 Worlds apt. Whether it’s sounding something like The Roots might use on “Foot Soldier”, or if Elikeh’s cutting loose like “Let Them Talk”- there’s coherence, even when he switches language.

Many Afrobeat musicians have made it their challenge to break down the walls of genre, and preach the cyclical relationship of music, Elikeh never leaves behind his ultimate goal: Make it danceable and honest. The best example might be “Olesafrica”, the album’s best track, a searing and flourishing tune with well-planned horns. The groove harkens back to the 70s days of African-influence in funk: tripping rhythms and bass and guitar that leaves no room for air. It pulsates with the energy Elikeh is shooting for on this album.

Elikeh’s voice doesn’t bloom, really. He’s got a small range and never complicates his melodies. It doesn’t get in the way. He’s written songs for his voice, never forcing himself into something he can’t pull off. Between his brains and the band’s competence, Between 2 Worlds pulls it off: funky, heavy on the groove, and intentional lyrics that promote positive change, but more so, looking at your roots and determining the rough patches, whether it’s on that continent, or this one.

Bottom line: Elikeh knows Afrobeat, and hits a homerun with this funky, groovy, and honest record.


 

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