Gig review: Ibibio Sound Machine at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

Ibibio Sound Machine
Ibibio Sound Machine
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If you want the best party in town, head over to see Ibibio Sound Machine.

The eight-piece are a hip shaking, foot stomping mix of 70s funk, disco and Afro-beat. In British-Nigerian vocalist Eno Williams they’re also blessed with an infectious powerhouse. “Can you hear me over there?” she bellows, before repeating the question for the benefit of anyone for whom ‘there’ is Brighton.

Singing in English and Ibibio, the mother tongue of her maternal family, she radiates positivity and female empowerment. This is the case even when addressing dark subject matter, with the ecstatic ‘Give Me A Reason’ being about the abduction of female students in Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014.

Regularly extending tracks for an audience call and response, she’s the personification of ‘Joy’ as she stretches and twists across the stage in a nu-age rain dance, producing a red fan with which to cool herself and saxophonist Max Grunhard.

The rest of her band appear to be having an equally jolly time, with percussionist Anselmo Netto beaming his way through a selection of triangles, cowbells, whistles and tin buckets. The quality of musicianship meanwhile is evidenced by the presence of renowned Ghanian guitarist Alfred Bannerman, whose smooth playing often takes centre stage.

There are occasional drops in pace, notably on the slinky self-descriptive ‘Lullaby’, but for the most part the focus is on dancing and having a good time. This gives them some musical parallels with Sinkane, especially in their shared fondness for vintage funk, and only a double bill with them could have raised the roof any higher.