Vice Magazine once made up a list of the ten influential bands that everyone claims to listen to, but actually don’t. Among the unfortunate nominees were bands like Talking Heads and Sonic Youth, which were clearly chosen to annoy all of their hipster readers. But one that I couldn’t help but agree with, despite their intended obnoxiousness, was Fela Kuti. Their reasoning: no matter how politically-motivated or important it is, it’s still world music. And that’s sort of the problem. World music always seems kind of abrasive to those not familiar with the culture or accustomed to that particular type of music. And as an American, I can’t say I’m much of an authority on the genre that Kuti launched, Afrobeat.
Over time, however, musical tastes become more sophisticated, allowing for the gradual acceptance of other, foreign forms of music. In a way, it’s like trying new types of food. At first you don’t know what to expect, but you develop a taste for new things easily, once you allow yourself to relax and enjoy them. And so eventually, Fela Kuti grew on me, with his manic, driving funk compositions, even though I couldn’t really understand everything he was saying. But learning more about Afrobeat made listening to Nomo’s debut album that much more enjoyable.
Nomo is a mighty stew of a band, bringing together members of such unlikely groups as Saturday Looks Good to Me and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. Fusing together African rhythms and raw, sweaty funk music, the group creates a hearty, powerful sound. Their instrumentals, like “Discontinued” and “Better Than That,” ride a heavy, soulful groove. But vocal tracks, like “Moving in Circles” (sung in English, mind you), almost come closer to The Wailers’ more intense compositions.
Nomo’s self-titled record is accessible and funky, sure to find its way into the hands of fans of soul, reggae, funk and, of course, Afrobeat. It is, however, a long album, with most tracks stretching well past six-minutes, and then some. But patient souls should find plenty to enjoy here. Though it’s probably not Nomo’s goal to thrust Afrobeat into the mainstream, for rock-minded listeners like myself, it’s an eye-opening listen and a rather enjoyable one at that.
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra – Who is this America?
Fela Kuti – Expensive Shit
Daktaris – Soul Explosion
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.