The London-based quintet Fofoulah (meaning “it's there” in Wolof) was formed in 2011 and features Tom Challenger (Red Snapper) on saxophone and keyboards, Phil Stevenson (Iness Mezel) on guitar, Johnny Brierley (Outhouse Ruhabi) on bass, Dave Smith (Robert Plant’s Sensational Space Shifters) on drums, and Kaw Secka (Irok) on Sabar drums.
With the rhythms of the Sabar drums - a traditional form of Wolof drumming from Gambia and Senegal – at its heart, Fofoulah’s music has evolved into an inspired cosmopolitan mélange that also incorporates elements of electronic music, dub, improvisation and afro-rock. Like the complex city they live in, their music is shaped and lifted by diverse sound-worlds and cultures.
“Some of us grew up within this culture, some of us studied the rhythms but most importantly we all realized and embraced the undeniable power and energy of these (sabar) drums”
Johnny Brierley (bass)
“This deeply traditional music connects people with sound, rhythm and movement in a very unique and special way and is a constant inspiration in everything we do.”
Dave Smith (drums)
Having performed mainly in the creative hubs of east London and Bristol, in 2013 Fofoulah released the ‘Bene Bop EP’, a collaboration with Senegalese singer Biram Seck. Later that year the band entered the famed Real World Studios near Bath to begin work on their radiant debut album ‘FOFOULAH.’
Produced by drummer Dave Smith (Robert Plant, JuJu) ‘FOFOULAH’ is a previously unvisited crossroads where Sabar rhythms meet dub basslines and sci-fi synths; liquid melodies and Wolof rap entangle with trance-like dance grooves; and raw guitars, horns and samples blend with west and north African song forms.
In the album’s liner notes, bass player Johnny Brierley describes the creative journey that led to the making the album:
“The rhythms and traditions of the drums were essential starting points for our compositions and acted as the building blocks for all the other instruments…our music has developed and evolved with each members musical background and influences being heard within the band…'Fofoulah', our first album, is a snapshot of the band at this moment in time and the result of a constantly developing sound”
In keeping with the band’s expansive approach, the album also features an incredible roster of guest voices: Senegalese singer and Bristol resident Batch Gueye, UK singer / producer sensation Ghostpoet (courtesy of 'Play it Again Sam'), Algerian/Parisian singer Iness Mezel and the acclaimed Gambian born, Fulani musician Juldeh Camara (JuJu, Robert Plant).
Fofoulah is not merely a cross-cultural project. They are a dynamic band born naturally out of personal friendships and varied backgrounds, the nerve net of contemporary London and the post-global interconnectedness we all experience daily. The band is propulsive, innovative, celebratory and always leaning forward. They are a thrilling extension of the deeply rooted Sabar rhythms upon which their music revolves.
“Lets join together, leave conflict and work together. There is peace in community”
--No Troubles (Kelinte)
“If you don’t appreciate the truth of who you are and what the world brings to you, you will struggle. As we work we offer ourselves to the world.”
--The Clean Up (Rahas)