With a zest from the West African earth, spinning on traditional Afro-folk rhythms and infusing pieces of rock, funk and jazz into it, Elikeh has strived to be an amazing West African-American band in the heart of Washington DC.
The origin of the name “Elikeh” can be traced to Africa where the word implies “something that is rooted, in the soil or in tradition”. And in the matter of Elikeh – the name signifies its connection to the sound rooted in the Togolese traditional music. It owes its background in Togo, a country in Africa.
Massama Dogo is the lead vocalist and guitarist of Elikeh accompanied by eight other musicians playing bass, drums, saxophones, piano and percussions. Dogo, born and brought up in Togo, wanted to start a band that played a music rooted in Africa, and blended sounds of Reggae and roots. So he gave an advertisement in the newspaper and the people who turned up to join the band were experienced musicians and they knew what kind of sound the band wanted.
The songs of Elikeh bear elements of funk, soul, jazz and reggae music as well as aboriginal African music and rhythms. They lance through the tradition of classic Afrobeat bands and retain their unique, experimental sound. One of them said “It’s a bit challenging because people try to understand what kind of music we are doing. I remember someone asked me – “what is it? Afrobeat, Afrofunk, funk, reggae?” I said it is all of them.” According to them, if someone likes Bob Marley, James Brown, Fela Kuti, West African drumming, or any kind of contemporary African music, He will surely like Elikeh’s music.
Elikeh has also shared the stage with some big names in the Togolese music like King Mensah and Jimi Hope, in USA. “The Togolese music scene is dominated by urban music because people in charge of labels and owners of radio stations push that kind of music” said the band about their musical origin. They also informed that the musicians who thrived in traditional African music, most of them are now inclining toward more of urban music.
In some of their songs such as ‘No Vision’ and ‘Foot Soldie’, Elikeh seems to have put across a message for the people of Africa, being driven by a conscience originated from the harsh reality of the country where a handful of people are tremendously rich and the rest are extremely poor with the existence of middle-class being omitted. “I’m just trying to tell people to open their eyes and be involved in their country political life. People like to say they don’t want to be involved, but they don’t know their life and the cost of everything, including food, school fee… is based on what politicians are doing.” said a member of Elikeh.
The musicians of the band, coming from different places and backgrounds, are in perfect harmony, and so they conveyed “It feels great to be in Washington DC, home of amazing musicians. Be in a band with people from different musical background is really refreshing and creating new stuff with our rich background.”
Their new album ‘Between Two Worlds’ establishes a relation to the immigrant band members as much as it determines the true soul of the band, their actual identity – an amalgamation of African and American cultures and styles of music. “It is not easy to adjust to a different culture when your whole life you have been thought to do things a certain way. Sometime you feel stuck and don’t really know what to do in front of a specific situation. Now when you go back home, you are face with the reverse situation. You have to adjust to the culture again” says a band member.
The band does not want to think about the far future at this point, rather they want to concentrate in the present. “Right now, we want the fans to enjoy this album that will be released in few weeks. After that, we will take the band on the road to many cities in the US as possible.” they said.
They have their forthcoming CD release show in Washington, DC on 24thAugust, at Black Cat. On the very next day, August 25, Elikeh will be playing at the Thunderbird Cafe in Pittsburgh.
Written by: Aritry Das
Pictures by: Elikeh