Remember when the Thompson Twins collaborated with a woman of Nigerian heritage for a bubbly Anglo-pop/Afro-beat song in support of a bunch of girls kidnapped in the woman’s home country by a radical faction? Oh, and the song was sung in the woman’s native language, Ibibio? Yeah, we don’t either. But if it had happened, it would have sounded very much like “Give Me a Reason,” a song at once friskily irresistible and powerfully profound (regardless of the language) released last year by London’s Ibibio Sound Machine, which makes its Los Angeles debut on Aug. 3.
The band centers on London-born singer Eno Williams, but draws heavily on her family’s African origins, both in language, music and content. Many of the songs on their new album “Uyai,” released in March, tell tales of Nigerian life handed down to her from her family, many focusing on the role of strong women in life there. “Give Me a Reason” grew out of the globally condemned taking of 276 young Chibok schoolgirls by forces of Boko Haram, many of the teens still not returned to their families. The song takes the point of view of their distraught parents, desperately trying to make sense of something that is beyond sense.
The ’80s Anglo-pop touches brought new dimensions to the band, which had a more straightforward, horn-punched Afropop sound on its 2014 debut, the aesthetic echoed vividly in the song’s video, which would have fit nicely on MTV in the Martha Quinn era, with its bright primary colors, quick cuts and the camera commanding presence of Williams. It’s a strange juxtaposition between sound and content — though of course, given the language barrier, you have to know what the content it to, uh, know what the content is. Their upcoming appearance at the Skirball Cultural Center promises to be a lively groove-fest, and it’s perfectly okay to simply enjoy that. For that matter, dancing to the songs somehow gives the content more meaning, a combination of defiance and remembrance in its celebratory tone. That, it would seem, is the whole point of Ibibio Sound Machine.
||| Watch: The video for “Give Me Reason”
||| Live: Ibiio Sound Machine plays the Skirball Cultural Center’s Sunset Concerts seres on Thursday, Aug. 3.
||| Also: Stream the whole album via Spotify