Sometimes I get surprised with the kind of music that happens when unexpected fusion occurs. In this case, we get artist Alifchief’s ” African and Nusantara music with roots in rock and blues.”
Eh Banange! is a five-track EP that lives up to the description.
It opens with Semangat (translates to strong spirit and passion – my translation). We hear African music and Malay singing in one song. It feels like I’m listening to lagu puisi (Malay poem songs) meets Santana-tinged electric guitar rock and blues soloing over the backdrop of African rhythm guitar work… and sometimes it reminds me of what Malaysian singer Zainal Abidin was kind of doing in his “Hijau” era. I like the fact that there’s an outro guitar solo too. Fun!
The second song End Of The Line initially makes me wonder whether this was an English version of the opening track. Part of it is the rhythm guitar part… but as I listen closer this is something different. It’s interesting to hear how Alifchief sounds different when he sings in English… it has more of a 70s rock vocal feeling, kind of a folk rocker storyteller vibe. The electric guitar solo this time has some nice tapping and tasteful classic unison bends to close before the lead vocal comes back.
Yearning leans more to a nice groovy feel giving more of an R&B meets Sting “Englishman in New York” kind of sound. This is a nice contrast to the previous two tracks but still shows Alifchief’s tasteful arrangements. The guitar solo here is rocking too.
Fool mellows things out with a spacious track. The vocals are the highlight here before the guitar lead fills comes in with lyrical confidence answering the vocals. The guitar solo here is also really nice. Lots of call and response. Lots of heart.
Closing the EP is Adungu Blues – marking the first appearance of the adungu (a stringed musical instrument from Uganda) that sounds kind of like cross between a plucked harp like sound in between a steel string and a nylon string guitar. Charles Obina plays beautifully on this track and it is a great way to close the record.
In conclusion, this EP is one that I would recommend if you like good solid guitar playing meets Nusantara vibes meets African music. It’s like how it’s described… but with surprises as you listen to it. This is familiar music but mixed up into something special. Have a listen and enter Alifchief’s world today.
Listen to this EP on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/7MDQb92Cm23AisA6EqtTKK?si=dHe_NXtCTD-ijNxdZZ_FZA
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Alifchief is an artist from Brunei, a tiny nation in Southeast Asia.
Based in Kampala,Uganda, Alifchief has performed in Brunei, France, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. His music is a fusion of African and Nusantara music with roots in rock and blues.
His 2020 EP, ALIFCHIEF, was pressed to vinyl and enjoyed favourable reviews, including from the prestigious British magazine The Arts Desk, which compared his guitar playing to Santana. Boda Boda, one of the tracks from the EP, featured on Apple Music’s Sho’t Left playlist, showcasing the best of new experimental African music.
His debut album, nusantarafrika, was released on November 19th 2021 to widespread acclaim from several online radio stations in Europe, North America and Oceania, praising the fusion of various elements explored earlier with the EP.
His latest EP, Eh Banange! , was released on July 28th on Bandcamp and all streaming platforms; it expanded upon his rock and blues roots with African elements.