Best known for his work as percussionist for the internationally proclaimed jazz/funk band Jamiroquai, SolÃ¡ AkingbolÃ¡ is reconnecting with his rootsÂ by releasing his first solo album, Routes to Roots. Though he has spent most of his life in England, AkingbolÃ¡ was born in Nigeria and finds his way home during this musical journey with Yoruba drums.
“I was always seduced by the sound of the Yoruba language and the way it was expressed within the drumming. When a Yoruba drummer plays, it’s not just music: he’s talking, reciting, teasing, invoking and praising. These qualities open up other worlds of interest for me that go beyond music; worlds that lead me to history, to the essence of my people,” says AkingbolÃ¡.
The intensity of expression AkingbolÃ¡ speaks of is present throughout the album. Though the songs all feature incredibly beautifulÂ rhythms and drumming patterns, each track has its own unique story andÂ vibe.Â The vocals, transcribed in the liner notes into English, German, French, and Spanish, are made up of chanting Ifa poetry ranging from fables and myths to praise songs for various gods and goddesses.
In the fast-paced “Kulumbu Yeye,” a praise song for the Yoruba Goddess of fertility,Â the variance of rhythms and sounds produced by the diverse assortment of drums and vocals is quick and spiritually inspiringÂ while the slower, more deliberate chanting and drum-beats in the briefÂ ”Ojo To Wa Ninu Ose” and the gentle “Ori Ni Kan” are soothing and relaxing.Â
The aspect of spirituality and the supernaturalÂ is strongly evident throughout, but most notably in the sensuality and mesmerising repetition of the instrumentalÂ ”Witch Dance,” the only track not composed by AkingbolÃ¡, whichÂ features high-pitched rhythms fromÂ bell-like drums (most likely Bata drums decorated with bells)Â to deeperÂ driving beats.
Routes to Roots is 48 minutes of non-stop drumming artistry. With pulsating beats and infectious vocals, it’s impossible to resist the urge to move to the rhythms AkingbolÃ¡ has masterfully created. Providing a perfect backdrop for belly-dancing, spiritual awakening, or just relaxing on the couch, Routes to Roots is a must-have for any fan of African rhythms.
Zach’s Rating: A
Perfect For: A rhythmic journey to Africa
Stay Away if: You’re content listening to Top 40