The much anticipated music performance series Coke Studio Africa aired its debut episode on NTV and QTV ( plus a number of other channels across Africa) last weekend. On the lineup were performances by MI (Nigeria), HHP (South Africa), Karun (Kenya), Boddhi Sativa (Central African Republic), Salif Keita (Mali), Lady Jaydee (Tanzania), Just A Band (Kenya) and Tumi (South Africa). Behind the scenes were many more notable performers in including Chris Adwar, Kato Change and Franck Biyong. What was on offer was quite a different experience – live music performance without an audience but in a studio set-up, resembling the concept behind UK Channel 4’s Live From Abbey Road.
First up was MI, performing Africa Rapper Number 1 backed up by top panstula rapper HHP himself. The performance was refreshingly different from the original track with its much more warmer sound, mainly thanks to some great guitar riffs and the horn section which would also later take the main credit for transforming most of the episode’s other performances.
Up next was Boddhi Satva (whose totally awesome Ancestral Soul Remixes we have come to love) and Lady Karun, fresh off a new album release. The performance was an excellent reworked version of Boddhi’s collaboration with Ghana’s Athenai called Life mashed up with Ayub Ogada’s Koth Biro – a song most famously known for being one of the soundtracks for The Constant Gardener. This was no doubt the best pairing of the night, seamlessly bringing together Boddhi’s deep house sound and Karun’s vocal command of both songs for a solid performance.
Another potential perfect fit was in the next performance where Salif Keita hooked up with Lady Jaydee to perform his massive anthem Africa. However, the overall performance came out a bit “chilled out” for some strange reason. Could it have been the sound recording itself? I don’t know. As a matter of fact, a part of me was already expecting them to mash up Africa with Lady Jaydee’s Distance which would have created a fresher and much more interesting tone and message to the performance. Instead, Lady Jaydee was introduced almost towards the end of the session and not in time to create the fusion feel that the show was aiming for in the first place.
As with most things, the best was saved for last. Boddhi Satva and Karun may have been the perfect match, but it was Just A Band and Tumi from Tumi and the Volume who gave the most entertaining performance of the lot. These guys brought their collective energy together and made sure Huff + Puff sounded the way it was supposed to live along with a special rap session from Tumi at the bridge to top it all off.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There were a few teething problems here and there as regards the final sound recording – overemphasizing some sections of the performance at the expense of others which would have sounded so much better etc etc. I’m no audiophile but I sure noticed it. The situation slightly improves if you watch the YouTube vids in HD, but the issues prevail nonetheless. However, the great content and unique concept of the show will make you overlook (if not completely forget) those issues. This is THE show to look forward to and watch on Saturday nights. Even Orange Beat Ya Streets had to give up the time slot and move to 10PM. Only something very special will be able to attempt to push Coke Studio Africa off the pedestal that it now occupies.Great job!!