Music | Auntie Flo @ HiFi 4/10

Music | Auntie Flo @ HiFi 4/10

On what felt like the first properly cold day of post-summer, HiFi harboured a bit of
African heat to thaw out those grey-October-evening blues. As Auntie Flo,
accompanied by South African multi-instrumentalist Esa Williams, began his set, it
was as though he was directly channelling the spirit of the world’s most colourful
continent. And it is a place that has an incomprehensibly rich tradition of music and
dance, from the vibrant rituals of remote tribes to popular artists such as Fela Kuti.

Auntie Flo takes you on a musical journey deep into Africa into a heart of gold rather
than a Heart of Darkness. It is amazing how he electrifies the continent’s musical
history; the thunderous percussion of traditional instruments, including live congas
played by Williams, lend themselves so well to techno, creating a thrilling musical
fusion. (Anyone who has heard JD Twitch’s recent rework of Amadou and Mariam will
testify to this).

Since both men partially played live, be it on drums or MIDI, the songs were allowed
much more room for improvisation, bringing a level of unpredictability and
experimentation impossible to attain in a straight DJ set. It also meant that the sound
was devastatingly dense: wacky vocal samples, filthy-fat basslines and wild
percussion all sizzled together to build to some startling, sweat-inducing drops. It
almost sounded as if Ghana had sent someone to the moon as all sorts of cosmic
soundscapes sprouted out of nowhere.

At one point, during a sexy, South African slow-burner, Williams takes to a mic
affected to the point of inaudibility. What was he saying, and in what tongue? But
then I realised it didn’t matter. Auntie Flo is making music for a globalised world,
presenting an electrified Africa. Words became redundant; dance becomes
meaningful.

Oliver Walkden

photo: fabriclondon.com

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