Lost Files is a column dedicated to celebrating older projects that might have flown under the radar when they were released. This week, Abdul-Jabbar Obiagwu reviews Spirit Disco by Egosex, a comprehensive and experimental fusion of African contemporary art and Western influences.
Teetering on the edges of experimental fusion and obscure references and anchored by steely vocal performances and cinematic rises, Egosex’s music can be described as nothing short of emotive – it’s bound to make you move or feel things long forgotten. The Nigerian lead singer, Wekaforé Jibril, alludes to his childhood through poignant samples ranging from Labgaja and the interspersion of Lagos street slang around the project, creating an inimitable Nigerian product, even if it was birthed in the diaspora. Wekaforé Jibril is the multidisciplinary mastermind behind the electronic ensemble Egosex, his eponymous fashion label, and the architect behind the afro-funk after-hours club, Voodoo Club. In 2019, he was included in the Dazed 100 list, recognizing his efforts in the advancement of African art. He also launched the first edition of the Voodoo Club live series with Lady Donli.
Released in 2019, Spirit Disco represents the first official offering from the Barcelona-based band made up of two other instrumentalists and producers alongside Jibril, namely Hug Bonet Andres and Lluis Campos Sos. The five-tracker is a consolidation of all of their released material into a cohesive body of work for the second time; the first is a Soundcloud artifact only of interest to scourers of the internet and music enthusiasts. It’s a comprehensive and experimental fusion of African contemporary art and Western influences.
The EP opens with the eponymous “Spirit Disco”. The self-explanatory track provides ample representation for traditionally black genres such as (you guessed it) disco and house, painting pictures of an ethereal disco party fuelled by excesses; an open invitation to all listeners capable of accepting the RSVP. The project slips into a theatrical soft rock ballad, slowed down a couple of breaths and heralded in by night noises of the jungle for the fittingly titled “Chameleon”. Ominous backing vocals in an African language complete the experience as Jibril begins his verse with equally menacing lyrics: “I’ve got a cigarette in my back pocket so I could get close to you, I never smoked before, but nothing here is sacred, tonight my lungs are bulletproof.” Offering himself as a chameleon-sized sacrifice, Jibril kicks his vocals into a different gear for the hook, eliciting traits synonymous with the subject.
Moving into “Fever (Last Night in Paris)”, the band taps into stronger R&B cues as Jibril shares hints about a forlorn relationship with lyrics like “shot me down, baby girl I’m on my knees, I don't know how to love you and I know you can see, you broke my walls, I let you in as far as I can, last night in Paris you told me you can’t do this again.” Surprisingly, “Fever” appears to have the most clear-cut pop possibilities across the 21-minute runtime of the project. Yet, it remains rooted in the band’s mandate to create a globally groundbreaking product, Yoruba lyrics like “ma so fun mi” (don’t tell me) maintain the approach sternly. Following closely is the project’s lead single, “Congo”. Anchored by a largely repetitive hook, the record is aided by a sample from Lagbaja's 2000 release “Konko Below”. Jibril discusses self-loss with the reckless abandon of a college kid having a drug-induced epiphany at the back of a frat party as he prances between self-loathing and self-gratification. Lyrics like “the pressure keeps me going, the tension makes me feel alive, there’s no peace in the Congo, there’s no mercy in the jungle,” perfectly juxtapose the conflicts he sings about over several guitar trills, powerful synths, and a pulsating drum.
Ending with “Big Fish”, the album performs a perfect full circle act, precisely because a black voice is leading the charge. “Big fish, welcome to African waters, this is the Niger Delta, don’t get lost,” are the opening lyrics on the record – an ode to decades of immigration and subtle recolonizations that have become the norm for people seeking greener pastures. Bellowing in his baritone, Jibril closes the album with as much fervour as he begins it. He touches on a range of topics covertly in a limited release; at many points, it feels like a political manifesto hidden within the continent’s most elaborate light show and dispersed with all the energy of a hundred Lagos parties.