By Sarah Godfrey
The West African nation of Togo doesn't have the same reputation for churning out Afropop as countries such as Ghana, Mali and Nigeria. But D.C.-based Elikeh, fronted by Togolese singer-guitarist Massama Dogo, is seeking to change that with its mix of Afrofunk, highlife and roots - a style it calls "Afro-high."
Elikeh's new album, "Adje! Adje!," is a serious call to action that maintains a vibe of jubilant perseverance throughout. Dogo's lyrics, sung primarily in a blend of French and the African languages Ewe and Mina, are layered over rhythms from percussionist Joseph "Papa Jo" Ngwa and drummer Tosin Aribisala and copious amounts of guitar from Michael Shereikis, John Lee and Dogo himself.
The title track is political cautionary tale, while "Oleblemi" is all joyful, skittering horns and '70s Afrorock influences. On "Madjo," Dogo's beautiful voice is served with nothing more than soft guitar accompaniment, while the near-five-minute "Get Ready," an instrumental punctuated by a few exuberant shouts, puts on full display the rhythms of Afrofunk.
Dogo has said that getting play in Togo, with its focus on the sounds of other countries rather than its own, is difficult, but hopefully tracks like "Let's March," which has Elikeh modifying a piece from Nigeria's Orlando Julius Ekemode in its own style, will soon be heard, as the songs says, from Lomé to D.C.
Elikeh performs May 27 at the Rock & Roll Hotel.
Recommended tracks: "Adje! Adje!," "Oleblemi," "Let's March"