Music review: Ibibio Sound Machine

'Are you ready for an African party?' inquired Eno Williams, infectious frontwoman and vibe mistress of Ibibio Sound Machine. Born ready, came the reply, not in so many words but in the instantaneous connection made between this London-based Afro funk ensemble and the Friday night crowd in this sweaty basement club.
Eno Williams of Ibibio Sound MachineEno Williams of Ibibio Sound Machine
Eno Williams of Ibibio Sound Machine

Ibibio Sound Machine ****

Stereo, Glasgow

Williams and her seven fellow players had their all-ages audience warmed up and onside in minutes, magnetized by their irresistible groove which draws equally and seamlessly on Williams’ Nigerian heritage (Ibibio being her mother’s tribe and language) and on that supremely danceable strain of electro funk which has weathered the fluid trends of clubland for decades with an innate soul reminiscent of the great fusion bands of the 1980s such as Working Week.

Their hour-long set was a finely tuned fiesta of sinewy basslines, electro funk synthesizer licks and warm blasts of brass, embellished with copious use of cowbell and djembe, and crowned with Williams’ rich, unfettered, ululating vocals, deployed to carry a melody line or lead on a call-and-response mantra. She barely needed to coach or coax the crowd, even on the newer songs.

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As well as fusing traditional Nigerian highlife sounds with jazz funk, the band migrated northwards for a mesmeric psychedelic guitar trip across the Saharan desert, providing a brief, ruminative breather before they built the tempo back up on the home stretch with the no-nonsense Let’s Dance and then whipped up a high velocity climax.