Freedom Culture - Monolith Cocktail

Freedom Culture  ‘The Dawn’ 

Bringing the stifling hot incubated excitement and jaunty tropical goodwill of Accra, Banjul and the Caribbean to West Sussex, the Afrobeat-reggae-highlife-rock collective Freedom Culture inject a much-needed transfusion of multiculturalism into a decidedly dull and staid part of the UK. With members acquired from Bognor Regis, Chichester (perhaps the most dry and middle-class city in all of Christendom) and the outlaying regions, the group’s polygenesis spirit has won over the locals with its deeply infectious grooves. Founded in 2011 by the Gambian master rhythm drummer Sidi Gaye (a furious hand friction blur of skill on the Djembi), the rambunctious group has made their name with a host of sporadic, solid, live performances. Though recordings do exist – mostly individual live sessions and the odd studio track – it is only recently that the group have produced their first album proper, the high-spirited Africa-meets-Carnival-fiesta-Kingston, The Dawn.


Indolently sounding the clarion call, the opening Trench town ska meets Ghanaian Highlife – no coincidence as the group’s dynamic Afro-rocking helmsman guitarist, Kristian Bediiako, is from those parts – swings the horns skyward on the sunny side-up and joyously sauntering, ‘Ayiko’ (man, that guitar sure squeals with closed-eye intense delight!). This is followed by the funk-chops, stepping-out skank, of the ‘Inspector’, which merges some imaginary 70s American TV detective theme tune with the Skatalites and touches of Fela Kuti’s archetypal lambast protestations of the authorities: ‘I am the inspector/ I’m going to arrest/ You’ve been a bad boy.’ Vocals are kept to a succinct minimum, with only the occasional call for unity or a sly dig at the ruling elite, as shown in the less jolly, but no less energetic style, ‘Nagabinghi’, which raises and falls between languorous Burning Spear-esque earnest toiled resignation and a more upbeat, attacking, Afro rock, all the while communicating that age-old message of peace and unity, and with the Wailers imbued reggae number, ‘City Of Mosquitos’, which seems to suggest a lamentable frustrated protest at universal suffrage.

Freedom Culture 2 - Monolith Cocktail

By the time we reach the third track ‘Chefchaouen’, we’re on a shuffling-jazz tip, mounting a carpet ride across the Tangiers, the mystery and simmering horn section evoking an atavistic sand dance. A hangover of that minaret skyline soundtrack is felt in the plaintive ‘Makamaka’; the jazz, a certain shade of exotic blues this time around. But then we’re picked back up again with the Trinidadian reggae love-in, ‘Do You Really Love Me’: a missing two-tone era knockabout love lament if ever I heard one.


Encapsulating the full gamut and purview of the bands musicianship and themes, the finale, ‘Kassa’, is another joyous, uplifting saxophone (flowing with caressed soul by Matthew Barber) peppered, paean. An introduction and thanks I suppose to the group’s nine-strong unit, each individual member of the revue is allowed to flex their licks, riffs and show off for the last time, bringing the album’s harmonic feel flow and hang loose mantra full circle.


Without a label or management, the collective are still a relative obscure find, feeling its way forward and spreading their gospel by goodwill alone. Their album is as yet without a sound release date, shared for the present across the internet and touted at festival appearances and gigs. A regular patron, along with most of the band, of this blogs Sunday Socials at the Attibassi Café in Chichester, the group’s other djembe practitioner, and galloping bongo player, Toby Bowman (whose artwork adorns the cover), is, if the moneys right, looking to release The Dawn on vinyl. In the meantime get your laughing gear around this lively taster, and keep returning to our pages for further information.


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