The First Afrobeat Poet: Ikwunga
Ikwunga has recorded a seminal concept album with a distinctly original African feel. Calabash Vol.1 brings together a superb collection of Ikwunga's poetry married with a satiny Afrobeat.
Ikwunga, an American Board Certified Psychiatrist and the son of a famous West African poet and tribal Chief, is unarguably the first afrobeat poet and the original creator of this unique addition to the afro-beat pantheon and to the burgeoning spoken word genre.
In the early nineties, Ikwunga featured a developing beat-poetry style that was significantly influenced by the traditional poetic styles of Okogbule Wonodi & Christopher Okigbo, by the dub-poets Linton Kwesi Johnson [LKJ] and Mutabaruka, and the beat-poets Gil Scott-Heron, and Allen Ginsberg. In a quest to further translate his influences and to make them even more relevant to the environment and culture in which he was immersed, he drew on another influence, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Afrobeat. Ikwunga did this and subsequently became a regular opening act for Femi Kuti at the Afrika Shrine night club in Lagos when, with the opportunity created by Dele Sosimi and Femi Kuti, he first incorporated Afrobeat into his evolving beat-poetry style.
The poetry is easy to follow rhythmically and linguistically. Content can vary from the intensely political (leaning heavily towards pan-Africanism) to the love poem 'I don love' a hauntingly moving appeal to a lover who has yet to make up her mind.
Afrobeat, the music of the legendary Nigerian musician and sage, Fela Kuti, is clearly a huge influence on both Ikwunga and his superb backing band led and produced by Dele Sosimi (former keyboardist of Fela Kuti's Egypt 80 Band, and musical director of Femi Kuti's Positive Force Band). Ikwunga and Dele, previously fellow performers at Kuti's, famous night club, The Shrine in Lagos, have produced an album that can be enjoyed at many levels. Ikwunga is a fresh, urgent and lyrical voice in African poetry and the poems themselves are beautifully reproduced in the elegant presentation of this CD. These narrative poems have a distinctly African rhythm and can be enjoyed independently on sleeve notes. However Dele Sosimi captures the rhythm of the spoken word and provides the perfect accompanying music allowing the listener to enjoy the poetry while feeling the Afrobeat permeate his or her body. An excellent combination, which repays repeated listening, Calabash Vol. 1 leaves us eagerly awaiting Vol.2.
Interestingly, the Calabash serves several roles in various cultures. Calabash as food, as drinking gourds, as musical instruments, as vessels for African spiritual rituals, as Caucuses in the African Union, as decorative art, andâ€¦yes, as a collection of Afrobeat poems that redefine a genre, and extend the legend of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's socio-cultural activism.
Proceeds from Ikwunga's Calabash series partly funded the creation of The African Alliance for the Mentally Ill (TAAMI), a non-profit organization that will generate public awareness of mental illness in African communities, and advocate for mental health services treatment and research.
Poetography: I don love featured on Essential Afrobeat Compilation by Universal Music, Di Bombs featured on the Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (ASAP) by Modiba Productions and Apple iTunes, Di Bombs featured on Indestructible African Beats 2005 (manteca World Music). The ASAP raised over $135,000, which was sent directly to Sudan to benefit the victims of the genocide in Darfur; Di Bombs was the top downloaded track on ASAP.
Calabash: Afrobeat Poems by Ikwunga Vol.1:
Ikwunga's debut; Calabash is a concept album that pioneers a new and authentic dimension to Afrobeat, defines Afrobeat poetry and how it should be presented, and remains true to a literary work of art. Calabash Vol.1 introduces the confluence of a new spoken word (Afrobeat poetry), a new contemporary Afrobeat (produced by Dele Sosimi) with a distinguished modern-day African art and graphic design (illustrations for the poems by Chima Eze and Graphic/Album design by Geoffrey Olisa). The album is truly a collector's item. Already inching up the World Music Charts, Calabash has set the gold standard for a sub-genre of spoken word/Afrobeat, and how it should be presented.
Ikwunga - Spoken Word & Vocal Arrangements
Dele Sosimi - Keyboards, & Backing Vocals
Femi Elias - Bass
Justin Thurgur - Trombone
Nick Smart - Trumpet
Phil Dawson - Guitar
Eki Gbinigie - Backing Vocals
I don Love Chorus on Tin tin loving by: Tobi, Seun & Folakemi Sosimi
Maurizio Ravalico - Congas, Shekere, Shakers, Tambourine & Wood Block
Ayan Ayandosu - Talking Drum
All Horn Arrangements by Justin Thurgur except on "I don love" by Ikwunga
& Justin Thurgur
Ikeru: Music by Dele Sosimi/Femi Elias/Justin Thurgur/Philip Dawson
Drum programming by Justin Thurgur & Dele Sosimi
Music by Dele Sosimi & Femi Elias
All Afrobeat Poems Written, Composed & Performed by Ikwunga
Ikwunga featured on the Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project Compilation:
It is an honor to contribute an Afrobeat poem (Di Bombs) to this noble cause that is geared to raise awareness and funds for the victims of the genocide in Darfur Sudan. Estimates place the number of lives lost at about a quarter of a million. This compilation under the auspices of Modiba Productions, TrueMajority and Apple computers is to be released on Apple's iTunes in November, and features an eclectic collection of Afrobeat from top-notch Afrobeat artists like Antibalas, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, Dele Sosimi, Franck Biyong, Keziah Jones, Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestrea, Massak, Tony Allen, and Wunmigirl. Your support for this album goes directly towards making a positive change in the lives of fellow citizens of our global village. The album has already generated over $100,000 which has been sent to Sudan.
Ikwunga featured on the Essential Afrobeat Compilation:
The 3 CD Essential Afrobeat (Family Recordings/Universal Music) has been compiled by Dele Sosimi who joined Fela Kuti's band when he was 16 and became Fela's musical director by the age of 21. Sosimi has included classic tracks from all the main Afrobeat players (Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Tony Allen, Orlando Julius, Youssou N'Dour, Hugh Masekela, Salif Keita) plus more modern takes on it from Fatboy Slim, DJ Food and Knuf (the spanish Daft Punk and Funk spelt backwards to boot). The album is pure energy and pure party music, and is perhaps the very best compilation of organic Afrobeat yet. There is a Bonus Afrochill CD that contains more mellowed Afrobeat tracks from the likes of Antibalas, James Brown, Afro Dizz, Lijadu Sisters and Ikwunga. Ikwunga's "I don love" rounds out this Afrochill CD with distinction.
Ikwunga's Di Bombs is also featured on Indestructible African Beats 2005.
Di Bombs Instrumental (Dele Sosimi Cut) The Junks Remix featured in Sound Affects:Africa, a new double CD released by Bottletop UK.
Tic Talk, a new AbP by Ikwunga is featured in the "37 State" compilation by Most Records UK 2006
Calabash CD is played as inflight entertainment on South African Airlines
Ikwunga - abp calabash collective red maple
Ikwunga - ikeru creation
Ikwunga - ikwunga at amayo s new year bash with fu-arkist-ra and antibalas
Ikwunga - intro kola nut
Ikwunga - i don love
name: Iwkunga Afrobeat Poet (AbP)