Afrobeat pop line-up for Waitangi gig

Nigerian singer and shekere percussionist Nuel Nonso Nwachukwu leads the 11-piece ensemble.

A top lineup of jazz, funk and soul musicians will bring their afrobeat pop to Leigh Sawmill on Waitangi Weekend, February 5.

Ijebu Pleasure Club pulls together musicians who have performed with The Hot Grits, Katchafire, Homebrew, Very Tall Stories, Spiral, Ko-lab, Solaa and the Ngaruawahia High School Big Band.

Led by Nigerian singer Nuel Nonso Nwachukwu, the 11-piece ensemble has a five-horn lineup doubling as backing vocals, and a tight-grooving rhythm section.

They are looking forward to the Sawmill stage for the large group, which is still not as big as the 15-20 ensemble used by afrobeat pioneer Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.

Kuti is a main influence for saxophonist Ben McNicoll. Ben conceived the Ijebu Pleasure Club based on his love for the West African take on funk music prevalent in Nigeria and Ghana in the 70s and 80s.

He says musical influences ping-ponged across the Atlantic and pop producers in the US and UK took on the distinct African sounds and repackaged them.

Ijebu Pleasure Club is now taking pop classics from the 80s, including tributes to Prince and Bowie, and reinterpreting them for the current era with an afrobeat spin. The songs are either mashed up or the rhythmic elements and influences are pulled together.

It’s a perfect fit for singer Nuel who was in a pop RnB band in Nigeria and plays the traditional percussionist instrument Shekere. Nuel is also influenced by Fela Kuti’s son, Femi Kuti, who performed at Womad NZ last year.

The end result is not covers but rather rearrangement of the songs, says Ben. Instead of three minute pop covers, an 11 minute song can start with three minutes of afrobeat before the pop reference even starts.

“It’s a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar with something for people who love 80s hits or want to hear a funky style of music they haven’t heard before.

“We enjoy adding musical jokes and it’s fun to see that moment of recognition when the crowd gets the punchline and starts dancing.”

The Sawmill gig follows a busy February for the band including Music in Parks on 19 February in Manly Park, Whangaparaoa, with Allana Goldsmith and Whitechapel Jak.

Info: Ijebu Pleasure Club plays at Leigh Sawmill on Sunday 5 February.

$15 on the door from 8pm, or $10 presales from Eventfinder.  

Ticket giveaway: Mahurangi Matters has a double pass to giveaway. Comment below, message us on facebook or email with the subject line: Afrobeat.  Competition closes 4pm February 3.