When your band name translates as “Be Strong”, you’ve got no choice but to come out swinging, and that is exactly what KOKOROKO have done with their debut self-titled EP.
KOKOROKO’s name is taken from Orobo, a Nigerian tribe and language. With roots in Africa and London, KOKOROKO’s sound is a cosmic blend of tradition and inner-city sunlight. Drawing inspiration from afrobeat, jazz, African folk and more, this band of kindred spirits share their perspective on modern-day living, the only way they know how – with infectious riffs and water-tight rhythms.
“Adwa” explodes into action with warm organ notes, which could quite easily build into a contemporary house banger; but that isn’t KOKOROKO’s style. The skipping percussive hits set your pulse racing as the horns join the party, making their presence known as the track begins to ascend. “Adwa” dodges and weaves around the core riffs with a mid-section powered by a dusty, unpredictable guitar solo. Not to be outdone, as the guitar fades a burst of brass attacks your senses, leaving no rest for your already shuffling feet.
For the weary dancers a respite is waiting in the form of “Ti-de” – a wandering, swaying African waltz, during which, each member is allowed the space to flex their musical muscle throughout the six minutes of reflective soul. Little hints of flair and finesse fill the gaps between the song’s main motifs, as the band refrain from hitting full throttle. They want the listener to stay connected to this moment with no distractions.
“Uman” is a “celebration of women, black women in particular” according to Maurice Grey, the collective’s composer and trumpeter. The initial notes sound almost mournful, highlighting the struggles that have occurred throughout history, and sadly that still arise today. As the notes fade, the mood is shifted to become more empowering, a knowing laugh in the face of adversity. This is a celebration of womanhood and black culture, not a song of sympathy.
The EP closes with the glistening “Abusey Junction”, KOKOROKO’s nocturnal, introspective lullaby. Built upon a composition from guitarist Oscar Jerome, this is a song that is held close to the hearts of all that who hear it, and will no doubt continue to bowl over thousands of new listeners with it’s calming, meditive groove.