Les Amazones d'Afrique, 2017
Les Amazones d'Afrique are an all-female collective of west African musicians, campaigning for gender equality. They have been described as a supergroup, and the characterisation seems apt. Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné hold a strong pedigree, and it's a rare opportunity to witness such a collaboration; the real sound of contemporary Africa.
République Amazone is the sound of the diaspora of African music returning home, a reclaiming outside of genre and time. As much at home on the dancefloors of east London, or as part of an Awesome Tapes from Africa festival set in Croatia, as it would be ringing out of a cement brick house in Bamako, it showcases the sparkling range and versatility of its songstresses.
Running on funk and blues with dabs of dub; ancient rhythms blending seamlessly with their western appropriated cousins, Les Amazones d'Afrique sound like an aural actuation of the new melting pot cities of the African continent. Tracks on their album, République Amazone, are sung intermittently in English, French, Bambara and Fon. At times, it's almost as if we are swirling about in several decades simultaneously: filthy backwards or wah wah guitars, distorted thumb piano, dreamy, jazzy chords and soulful singing over a pneumatic beat give way to the kind of Afrobeat best heard as the dawn rises in a muddy field in Europe during festival season. Liam Farrell, who has worked with Afro-pop king Tony Allen and Mbongwana Star, had a firm hand in leading the edgy, industrial feel to the production.
Wedding features dirty shards of Malian blues guitar over insistent, clipping percussion and trippy chords. On Nneka's song La Dame et Ses Valises we eavesdrop on an internal conversation which could be about love, or could be a woman giving herself the best advice: 'Woman, don't you know you are a queen?' Her history is not her destiny. On tracks like Kounani it sometimes feels as if the sounds and arrangements have sneaked into the mid-Atlantic to dance with the Tropicalia of Brazil, enjoying a shared delight in scraping, clanging percussion, off kilter melodies that blossom, moment to moment into beautiful cadence.
Profits from the sale of the track I Play The Kora - the first track to be revealed from the project - will be donated to The Panzi Foundation, led by Doctor Mukwege in Bukavu (DRC), which has provided healing support to more than 80,000 women, nearly 50,000 of whom are survivors of sexualised violence. Les Amazones d'Afrique have started a crowdfunding campaign to help finance the work of Panzi Foundation. Click here to donate.
- While the melodies and grooves are undeniable party-starters-dig the distorted thumb-pianos on "Dombolo" or the gritty jazz-funk groove of "Doona"-Les Amazones d'Afrique's message is deeply political Entertainment Weekly (USA)
- 'Noble causes seldom generate music as exuberant as the stuff on République Amazone' Produced by Liam Farrell (a.k.a. Doctor L of the Congolese group Mbongwana Star), the dozen songs on the album mix traditional tones with electronic flourishes, buoyant rhythms and collaborative energy. Variously sung in French, English, Bambara and Fon, lyrics address with unblinking conviction the plight of the powerless, battling oppression with musical fury. Read the full review here. LA Times
- 'Be ready to experience the full spectrum hues of the global rainbow-all at once' Farrell's decidedly post-modern production style nods to Malian Wassoulou music and Mande griot pop, as well as Nigerian Afrobeat and Naija pop, electronic dance music and ambient techno, while never quite settling into any of these areas. Read the full review here. Afropop Worldwide
- 'Long may their voices effect positive change' Musical diversity is the key here - from the gritty plucked string and né-drenched "Anisokoma" to the dirty grunged-up anthem "Dombolo" and Nneka's soulful R&B… There is an attitude and power to each of these performances and the gritty, industrial production, courtesy of Laim Farrell, reflect the grit and strength of those. Long may their voices effect positive change. ★★★★★ fRoots (Playlist Album Choice)
- 'It's a pretty ferocious track... Their music sounds very futuristic... sounds edgy...sounds gritty.' Kate Hutchinson on 'Dombolo' (music ed. Guardian Guide) Worldwide FM
- 'A fantastic musical celebration of female empowerment.' Read the full review here. Rhythm Planet, KCRW
- 'An off-the-hook dance party over talking drum elation' This supergroup of West African divas throws an off-the-hook dance party over talking drum elation. The result is a desert trip you won't want to come home from anytime soon. Rolling Stone
- 'Les Amazones d'Afrique bring a ferocity to this album that reflects the urgency of their cause.' ★★★★ Q Magazine
- 'Quite possibly one of the most under-rated party records of the year' Read the full review here. The Vinyl Factory
- 'Their powerful voices pouring as much majesty into the medium as the message. A multifaceted album that highlights the ingenuity of contemporary African sound.' London In Stereo
- 'A proud, forceful demonstration of the strength and variety of modern African music' It's a proud, forceful demonstration of the strength and variety of modern African music, brilliantly combined by producer Liam Farrell into arrangements where funk, afrobeat, desert-blues, dub and congotronics swirl infectiously around the women's voices. The ensemble's forces are most proudly heard on the rousing "I Play The Kora" - which ironically also features bass clarinet, metallic percussion, thumb piano and bowed strings: a world of music in a single track. ★★★★ The Independent
- 'A thoughtful example of how to fuse technology and street rhythms, creating an international language for our brave new interconnected world.' The Sunday Times
- 'A triumph' The "Amazonian Republic" proves an exciting country, its music tumbling between languages (Mandinka, French, English), and African and western styles. Benin star Angélique Kidjo opens in strident form against a "Congotronic" setting from producer Liam Farrell (of Mbongwana Star fame), whose backings segue easily from spritely African kora to R&B and reggae grooves. There are anguished pyrotechnics from young Malian singers like Rokia Koné and Mamani Keita, sweet love calls and a restless, infectious energy to the album. A triumph. ★★★★ The Observer
- 'Ces voix magnifiques ont été confiées aux bons soins de Docteur L. qui en fait la matière brute de mixtures plus urbaines' Telerama
- 'Jamais larmoyant ni lénifiant, mais au contraire toujours chatoyant et vivifiant, le résultat, melting-pot impeccablement mis en relief par la production de Doctor L, réjouit de bout en bout.' Les Inrocks
- 'Storming set by all-star African supergroup' The rhythms are African, electronica swirls around it, reggae bass thunders through the mix, dub distorts the senses, thumb pianos turn into thunder… the lyrics tackle domestic violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage… it's terrific. ★★★★ Mojo (UK)
- 'A beautiful new release' Lauren Laverne, BBC 6Music
- 'Revolutionary, pancultural fervour from West African collective' Some might complain that bands in the 21st century don't aspire to much. Les Amazones d'Afrique want to change the face of an entire continent. Q Magazine
- 'Splashes of dub, electro, funk, rock and blues enrich this lively album from an all-female collective of musicians campaigning for gender equality in Africa.' Big Issue North