November 3rd, 2014

VaudouGame

Title: Apiafo

Artist: Vaudou Game

Label: Hot Casa/Forced Exposure

Formats: CD, MP3, LP

Release date: September 22, 2014

 

Vaudou Game is the newest band of Peter Solo, a singer and composer born in Togo, West Africa, which is the birthplace of the Guin tribe and a major center for Voodoo culture. Vaudou Game merges these cultural traditions of the Guin with funk music to create an undeniably unique sound on their debut album Apiafo.

As the only African member of Vaudou Game, Solo taught the other five members of the band Mina, the native language of the Guin people, as well as the traditions of Voodoo culture. Intrigued by the spirituality and the challenge presented to them as musicians, they all perform and even speak in Mina.

Though in Voodoo practices there is only a capella singing, Peter and the band codified the two major musical scales found in the songs of these Voodoo rituals so they could be played on modern instruments. They also try to imitate the harmonies of the original traditions in both their vocals and instrumentation. Their exclusive use of vintage instruments also emphasizes their dedication in staying true to the nature of the traditions and customs they explore in Apiafo.

All the songs on Apiafo reflect not only African traditions, but American musical traditions as well. The vibe of the album is undeniably funk, with a sound harkening to the ‘70s soul era. The standout track, “Pas Contente,” has a funky bass line and groovy electric guitar. Solo’s shouts throughout the track are reminiscent of artists such as James Brown and Edwin Starr. The track also features Solo’s uncle, Roger Damawuzan, who was a major player in bringing soul music to Togo in the 1970s with his hit “Wait for Me.” The video for “Pas Contente” is intriguing, featuring a multitude of people offering sacrifices to an idol in a field. This is a visual representation of the Voodoo theme from Togo present throughout the album, though Solo and his uncle remain the only Africans seen in the video:

YouTube Preview Image

A slower ballad, “Ata Calling,” is an invocation to a supreme divinity. The more sacred nature of this subject is shown through the song’s slower tone and drawn out vocals. Though the lyrics and the harmony can be appreciated, the music itself does sound like a typical ‘60s or ‘70s ballad, with the unchanging cymbal pattern maintaining a steady emphasis on every second beat.

“Think Positive” is a very accurate title, as the track has an uplifting feel in both music and vocals. It brings light and originality to the last segment of Apiafo. The call and response of Solo and the band is catchy and true to the African roots of the album, and the musical changes between the verses and the chorus are refreshing. The brass interludes in this track stand out, adding a bit of a jazzy flavor to the mostly funk song.

Though Vaudou Game has a distinctive and enjoyable sound, it does not stray from a formulaic approach of funk music with Mina lyrics. It will be interesting to see how Vaudou Game develops in the future, and if their music will continue to incorporate the two different cultures and explore the traditions of Togo and its people through funk music.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

Review Genre(s): World Music


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