Photo credit: Biyi Adepegba
With the bass setting the foundation, the talking drums driving the music, and the guitar and saxophone adding the ‘melodic juice’, Funmi Olawumi’s 8-piece band mixed afrobeat, juju, highlife,
and fuji to create an almost irresistible evening of faaji music.
The band came on and played ‘Iyo ayo’ without Funmi; it showcased, not only backing vocalist Kehinde Talabi’s singing prowess, but set the tone for the avalanche of rhythm to come.
On came Ms. Olawumi in a striking off-the-shoulder dress as the band, MD’d ably by bass player Femi Sufela, ran through the syncopated funk/afrobeat piece called ‘Makan mi’. The tempo did not stop as both Funmi and guitarist Lekan Shobiy (making good use of wireless technology) danced, sang, and played their way through the audience for a version of ‘Sugar mi’.
After the interval came ‘Imole tide’, which featured a great guitar solo, ‘Tuba di lola’ (in which the soprano sax essayed ‘My favourite things’), and finally the band showcase that was ‘Funmi ti de’.
At this point, the 4-piece rhythm-section, the foundation of the band, got their due respect. Comprising John Bello on drums, Wole Aina on congas, and Wole Ogungbe and Imole Ayo as the
two ‘talking drummers’, the sound became ever more urgent, eloquent, hypnotic, and… fun!
In fact, Bello and Shobiy especially couldn’t seem to stop smiling and joking as they expertly worked their way through the syncopated melodic and rhythmic patterns.This became infectious as the feel-good factor spread through the audience.
The only down-side, I must say was… Funmi Olawumi.
One cannot help feeling that the quality of the musicianship deserved a better ‘vocal-point'(!) Her singing, though, serviceable is not particularly pleasant of tone. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that the two tunes sung by backing singer Kehinde Talabi at the top of each set, were vocally superior to anything sung by Ms. Olawumi.
Still, good musicians / bands quite often need a conduit.
With this in mind (and recognising the wonderful musicianship and good vibes coming from her stage), it’s fair to say Funmi Olawumi is most definitely a force for good.