Ibibio Sound Machine are the coolest band ever, and they know it

Eno Williams dances around the stage, his sleeves swirling as his arms reach with steely determination towards the disco ball on the ceiling, his feet marching to the demanding beat. A member of the public waves him closer and gives him a gift in the form of a Philadelphia Phillies jersey. She puts it around her shoulders, signaling the love she expressed for her Philadelphia audience all night long. The party on stage is almost rivaled by the absolute riot of a moment people have in the crowd. “I’m going to show it to my mother!” she proclaims. Williams locks the eyes of people in the World Cafe Live audience and dedicates a song to the city of Philadelphia, one step from Ibibio sound machine‘s (ISM) Electricity Live Tour on October 20.

ISM are a British Afro-funk band based in London consisting vocalist and frontwoman Eno Williams, guitarist Alfred Kari Bannerman, percussionist Anselmo Netto, drummer Jose Joyette, bassist Derrick McIntyre, Tony Hayden on trombone and synth, Scott Baylis on trumpet and synth and Max Grunhard saxophone and synth. The Byte released their critically acclaimed fourth studio album, Electricity, in March 2022.

Williams arrives on stage in a gold headpiece, bright red patterned dress and matching boots, complete with a red fur coat. His presence demands the audience’s attention, but not in an intimidating way.

Williams points to her heart to introduce the first song and says, “Without love, there’s no electricity. The synthesizer picks up immediately and begins the title track. “Let me speak from the heart, without love / There’s no, no, no electricity.” His voice is monotonous and you can feel the thundering rhythm under your feet. Unlike a number of songs on their discography, the lyrics are in English.

Often, “the lyrics are based on the Ibibio language of southeastern Nigeria and stories I was told growing up in Africa,” Williams said. Told The Arts Office. Williams sings folk tales she heard growing up and also sings to protect her audience. “protection from evilwas a song written during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Williams describes this time as “the most chaotic time”, and this song serves as a “prayer song”. The hypnotic synth kicks in and it feels like the 80s become cool again.

I need you to be sweet like sugar (Nnge Nte Suka)” is a funkier track from the ISM album Doko Mine. The versatility of their hour-and-a-half-long set introduced audiences to their dynamic sound and showcased Williams’ incredible vocal range. She invites the sparse audience to dance and sing with her in “The Song (Iquo Isang).” To my surprise, the crowd consists largely of white people in their 30s and 40s, who enthusiastically sing along to Ibibio’s lyrics.

Williams talks about Ibibio and its cultivation in southern Nigeria. She talks about the kidnappings of 276 Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014, and laments that “it could have been me”. She sings “Give me a reasonwhich doesn’t slow the pace, but still conveys Williams’ grief over the situation. In an interview with Weekly entertainmentwilliams exclaimed, “Why can’t we just be free to be whoever we want to be?” Why can’t children just be free? It’s not an angry song. It’s a challenge. This is [about] empower people. »

The band’s energy is contagious and they are clearly having fun on stage. At one point during the concert, Williams points and dances towards Netto. She then throws water on Joyette during her drum solo. Many bands are absorbed in technical details during their performances and do not interact with their audience members or band members. Sure, ISM goes above and beyond, but it’s the standard that all other live artists should be competing against. You can’t help but feel loved by Williams. In fact, she tells the audience “I love you” in a heartfelt way that makes everyone stop and smile, before continuing to dance.

During Grunhard’s saxophone solo, Williams calls it “absolutely wonderful”. She owns the scene, but shares it with her group members in a democratic way. The group then encourages the public to take part in the celebration. Williams tells us to clap our hands, tap our feet and motions us to go left then right. She then utters words of encouragement like a kindergarten teacher: “You got it!”

At the end of the concert, Williams leaves the audience with words of affirmation, saying, “Anything you want in life, you can have.” But this is not the end. Before-again, Netto comes back and says, “Every time I go on stage, nothing else matters. I have fun. Then asks the audience, “Are you going to dance like there’s no tomorrow?” at which the crowd goes absolutely wild.

As a reminder, Williams returns to the stage with the Phillies jersey. As the instrumentals continue, Williams takes the time to introduce her band members one by one, showing the utmost appreciation to the people she creates with. Williams shines in the spotlight, but clarifies that this is a group of equal members who all contribute to the success of ISM.

The concert showcased the infectious styles of Afrobeats, exposing a predominantly white audience to Nigerian cultural sounds, seemingly breaking through cultural barriers. But more importantly, ISM highlighted the love they have for each other and for their audience. After the show, Williams stood behind the merchandise line, signing vinyl and taking photos. Although they have the star factor to rise to the top of the electronic dance music genre, ISM’s personal intimacy with audiences sets them apart from any other band, providing an invaluable concert experience.

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