INTERVIEW: Ibibio Sound Machine | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Dan Wilton

London-based electronic Afro-funk band Ibibio Sound Machine released their stunning third album, Doko Mien, in March this year. After a summer of acclaimed festival shows, including a show-stealing appearance at Glastonbury, they’re back on the road for a UK tour which calls in at Newcastle’s Riverside on Tuesday 8th October.

Irrepressible frontwoman Eno Williams gives some background on the band’s sound. “It’s very much a combination of the West African language of Ibibio that I was taught as a child, electronic and highlife music, mixed with the high energy of a live show…it’s basically everyone’s influence from West African music, funk, African, post-punk.”

Possessed of a celebratory sound, Ibibio Sound Machine’s uniqueness comes from their love of language and storytelling, which has always been an organic process. “Trying something and see what comes of it, the lyrical content shone, the language felt quite unique, and then adding in the electronic element. When I growing up, we’d listen to a lot of traditional African Gospel, Western Gospel, American Gospel, and there’s something uplifting and celebratory about that, especially the storytelling element. There’s a lot about positivity, being hopeful, looking for a better day, you listen to the music and you had hope, there was always a message of ‘it’s OK’, and that message of positive energy is what we try to bring to the table.”

Even though we’re different, through music we all speak the same language

Given that we live in very divided times, the band’s multicultural make-up is a positive influence that’s sorely needed. “We’re all from different paths, but being in London has given us that opportunity to come together. We’ve got Australian, English, South American, Caribbean, African [members] and that says a lot for how music can define people and bring them together. Even though we’re different, through music we all speak the same language. Anything can be happening in the world and you can put a track on, and it becomes a soundtrack for a season, for a time. When we were writing this album one track in particular took me back to when I was growing up in Africa, the images and stories my Granddad told me about places he’d been in the war. Songs can take you to different places.”

The new album shows a real progression in the band’s sound; while their self-titled debut was ecstatic, 2017’s Uyai comes across as brittle, hard and angry. Doko Mien by contrast sounds more like a healing record with a positive message. “Yeah, that’s true. There was so much happening [during the making of Uyai], and one of the major things was an incident back in Nigeria where a girl had been taken, and I got upset. I was angry for a moment about why people can’t be free, and it was a reminder that we need to find the hope. For Doko Mien, it was asking a question, ‘Tell me, where do we go now, where do we go from here?’ It became a reassuring thing, and it gave me the confidence to think that we’re still on the journey, and we don’t know where we’re ending. You’re always writing your own story.”

Ibibio Sound Machine play Newcastle’s Riverside on Tuesday 8th October


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