Time Is A Gift Which We Share All The Time (EP) – Afriquoi
By Hannah Edwards
Drop 6 (EP) – Little Simz
Since their first album in 2015, Afriquoi have established themselves as an afro supergroup, fusing African instruments and sounds with UK electronic undertones, drawing on elements of house, soca, hip-hop, soul and jungle to create a sound that is entirely unique. Their new EP, Time Is A Gift Which We Share All The Time, feels like a ray of sunshine in these gloomy times. This is also the first ever Afriquoi release where the whole band has gone into the studio to record their full live sound, allowing each member’s individual instruments – including Congolese guitar, Gambian kora and African Djembe – and talent to shine.
Acid Attack is the uplifting opening track, featuring elements of Mandinka musical patterns and UK house music. With a djembé-fueled groove and lyrics sung in the Mandinka language of Gambia and Southern Senegal, the melee of sounds is meshed and layered seamlessly throughout, creating a rousing crescendo.
This high-energy intro is followed by Ndeke Solo, the stand-out track of the EP where the vocals and scintillating guitar take centre stage, flitting playfully between solo and ensemble sections. The title of the EP, Time Is A Gift Which We Share All The Time, takes its name from a line in this track, and serves to remind us of the gift of life and the intimate connection between all things.
Bayeke provides a beautiful interlude, featuring a steady, bubbling rhythm invoking visions of sunset scenes overlooking still water, a gentle warm breeze blowing in the dusky air. The vocals at the end fade and simmer out softly, like the moment when the sun disappears from the sky. The petered-out vocals lead into Sam Sam, another sultry, slow-burning track that gradually builds as it goes on. The group vocals make it feel as though we’re all moving forward together, shifting towards something new and exciting on the horizon, setting the scene nicely for the finale.
The EP closes with a rapturous remix of earlier track Ndeke Solo by French band Voilaaa. Voilaaa brings funky synth-y piano chords, delicate brass sounds and lilting drums into the mix, lifting the original track perfectly and making it party ready. Afriquoi’s new EP never fails to put a smile on your face from start to finish, making you want to get up and dance. As with all their music, it will be best enjoyed live with the full band experience so you can feel the full force of their infectious energy.
By Hannah Edwards
Writing and recording a 5-track EP at home in her one-bedroom apartment, Little Simz hasn’t wasted any time this lockdown. The latest 5 tracks comprise the sixth installment of her Drop mixtape series started back in 2014.
The opening track of the Drop 6 EP is full of fiery confidence – “feeling myself, yeah, I might be, bitch” – only two mins long but packing a serious punch. The nonchalant bass guitar and off-beat drums punctuate the provocative vocals, flitting between self-confident affirmations (“I am a one-woman army, I am the force that we speak of”) and hints of melancholy (“Born alone, die alone, that's how it go”). The title of the track might bang, might not reflects the juxtaposed moments of light and dark; there is a definite sadness behind the overt celebration of her success. Stormzy has long been a fan of Little Simz, publicly praising her talent and collaborating with her. might bang, might not is reminiscent of Stormzy’s own track Crown, discussing the perks and pressures of being at the top. In times like these, it’s harder than ever for artists to keep pushing and growing, being creative and making music, giving the people what they want whilst keeping themselves healthy and sane. Simz articulates this sentiment perfectly.
The EP consists of five short tracks in total (most running for less than three minutes), all stripped back, and largely consisting of simple drums, bass and Simz’ distinctive voice. The second track one life, might live has a humming, infectious rhythm to it, with the chorus declaring “I got one life and I might just live it”, a poignant statement for these times. She humorously talks about her views of love and the state of her dating life (“marriage ain’t really in the cards”) concluding that she’s better off “just giving love to self”, as though her current feelings of loneliness and isolation are not exclusive to lockdown. you should call mum is a musing on the values and priorities of modern life, addressing our current situation directly and succinctly – “times we livin’ in don’t seem real, but it was never a fairytale to begin with”. It’s a song about struggle and adjusting to new routines, dealing with messed-up body clocks whilst trying to maintain sanity and productivity (something I’m sure we can all relate to).
damn right and where’s my lighter both provide some down-tempo energy in contrast to the other tracks, less fierce and more quietly reflective. where’s my lighter is the longest and final track of the EP, featuring the hauntingly beautiful voice of Alewya singing in the background alongside Simz. Despite starting on a melancholy note, Simz ends with a lighter sense of hope for us to cling to – “in this world, we need balance” – encouraging us to carry on and keep creating despite the chaos around us. The chorus line “took it day by day but we in this” is a reminder that we are all in this together. Drop 6 is both harshly real and tentatively optimistic, addressing the universal fear and isolation we are all currently facing whilst also looking to the future.