Les Amazones d’Afrique are an all-female collective of west African musicians, campaigning for gender equality. They have been described as a supergroup, and the characterisation seems apt. Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné hold a strong pedigree, and it’s a rare opportunity to witness such a collaboration; the real sound of contemporary Africa.
République Amazone is the sound of the diaspora of African music returning home, a reclaiming outside of genre and time. As much at home on the dancefloors of east London, or as part of an Awesome Tapes from Africa festival set in Croatia, as it would be ringing out of a cement brick house in Bamako, it showcases the sparkling range and versatility of its songstresses.
Running on funk and blues with dabs of dub; ancient rhythms blending seamlessly with their western appropriated cousins, Les Amazones d’Afrique sound like an aural actuation of the new melting pot cities of the African continent. Tracks on their album, République Amazone, are sung intermittently in English, French, Bambara and Fon. At times, it’s almost as if we are swirling about in several decades simultaneously: filthy backwards or wah wah guitars, distorted thumb piano, dreamy, jazzy chords and soulful singing over a pneumatic beat give way to the kind of Afrobeat best heard as the dawn rises in a muddy field in Europe during festival season. Liam Farrell, who has worked with Afro-pop king Tony Allen and Mbongwana Star, had a firm hand in leading the edgy, industrial feel to the production.
Wedding features dirty shards of Malian blues guitar over insistent, clipping percussion and trippy chords. On Nneka’s song La Dame et Ses Valises we eavesdrop on an internal conversation which could be about love, or could be a woman giving herself the best advice: ‘Woman, don’t you know you are a queen?’ Her history is not her destiny. On tracks like Kounani it sometimes feels as if the sounds and arrangements have sneaked into the mid-Atlantic to dance with the Tropicalia of Brazil, enjoying a shared delight in scraping, clanging percussion, off kilter melodies that blossom, moment to moment into beautiful cadence.