East London based Raz & Afla, (Raz Olsher and Afla Sackey) recently released a five track EP of afro-house music anchored in West African musical traditions, with big, lush vocal harmonies and a style that lets acoustic percussion truly speak. Entitled Mama Weja, the EP comes ahead of a proposed album launch later in the year.
The lead single and opening track ‘Survive‘ is a joyful experience from beginning to end. Full of danceability from the very first note, the track’s upbeat feel, together with gospel style harmonies is an absolute banger.
‘Run Away‘ goes in a different direction, with a clear nod to Britain’s history of bass music. While the usual djembe and shaker sounds are building the main breakbeat, Afla also introduces his balafon and Atenteben flute and reminds us how “the system is driving us mad”. Again, you won’t be able to sit still whilst listening. Following on from this comes ‘Dance Asokpo‘, referencing Ghana’s long lost obsession for house and techno – which they called “asokpor” back in the 90s. The track has a typical “big room” sound, but the best bit is being invited to learn how to “dance asokpo”, with Afla teaching you. You’ll find yourself doing it in no time.
To round off a thoroughly enjoyable EP, we have the title track ‘Mama Weja‘, which slowly unfolds as an epic afro-house track, reminiscent of the work of Auntie Flo. Afla’s beautiful vocals turn from a heady, powerful chorus to rhythmic incantations, revealing the track’s twofold identity. The album ends as it began; with joy, fun and rhythm that keeps your body moving.
Raz and Afla’s advice for aspiring musicians is all about thinking about why you want to be a musician in the first place:
“Always stay true to yourself. First and foremost you make art for our own heart and soul. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Play the long game. Try to forget your audience. Keep your art pure even if it comes at a price of having another way to earn a living. There are many rejections along the way and as long as your work is better than your previous one you are on track. “
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