Jembaa Groove / Susuma / Agogo Records – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

Yannick Nolting (bass, composer, producer) and Eric Owusu (vocals, percussion, songwriter) have come together as Jembaa Groove to make a wonderful album full of warm, sinuous West African grooves and a deep-rooted soulfulness that really hits the spot.

Eric has been recording and touring with the venerable likes of Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas, and that experience certainly shows: there’s a relaxed, feel-good vibe generated from the seven-piece band they’ve put together, that exudes peace and positivity. This is global fusion with a high sheen, feeding from the past and looking to the future, and its chock full of brilliance.

Mokole, for example, sits tight on a rolling mid-tempo groove, Owusu’s intimate vocal performance underpinned by a seriously boogie-back bassline, great horn figures, sweet Rhodes splashes – all stirred up into an irresistible dance-floor warmer. If you’re in need of something to entice people onto the floor, look no further: this stuff is guaranteed to slay it every time.

Recent single, Amale, ups the BPMs but keeps the soul: melodies tumble, the bass high in the mix, sparkling guitar work spars with the horns: these guys know where it’s at for sure. Two minutes in and those horns float off into an extended work out: dropping back to the groove when the vocals re-enter – quietly devastating, and again hand-tooled for any dance-floor worth its salt.

There’s nine cuts in total and they’re all equally unmissable. Opener, Aawoya, is an achingly beautiful introduction – slow and low and beckoning you in – whispering of the delights to be found within. Adesane is another slower jam, just as delightful: stately, moving, sonorous – Owusu’s spine-tingling voice wrapped up in aural cotton wool. These two have been on repeat recently in our casa: so good.

Bassa Bassa heads back to the party, ‘wake up make you dance…make you want to Bassa Bassa’ they say and they’re absolutely right of course: undeniably powerful, brass pumping out the good groove, beats rolling, rolling, rolling into a lovely keys drop three minutes in – this is a band firing on all cylinders, confident and cruising.

The production is great too, the warmth and the generosity of the musicians captured perfectly, the individuals coming together as a perfectly-formed whole: the communal spirit laid out for all to witness. Come together is the rallying cry – come together and celebrate life, celebrate music, celebrate the dance – Jembaa Groove have you covered.

Jembaa Groove`s Susuma will be released on March 18th, on Agogo Records. 

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