Afrodisco is a gorgeous mix of Kenyan sounds and disco. An experiment like this is not an undertaking for amateurs. Iddi Singer and Grandmastatek expertly leverage each other’s strengths. When one falters, the other covers up.
By Emmanuel Daraloye
Kenya-based singer, Iddi Singer, has made Swarnrnb – a blend of Swahili melodies and R&B – his chosen music niche. The singer took up music professionally in 2010 after completing his university education, and since then, has released two bodies of work and several singles that have brought him commendable countrywide recognition. He’s raked in multiple collaborations within the Kenyan music industry, including working with legends such as Tedd Josiah, Bigsoul, Tk2, and Teknixx & Motif.
On August 11, 2023, the singer took his music experimentation to another level with the release of the EP, Afrodisco. It is his second project this year, it comes after the release of his LP, Imba in February. Afrodisco is a joint project with legendary Kenya producer, Grandmastatek.
Disco music was a popular genre around the world in the 1970s and ’80s, with the music originating in the U.S. The genre has declined since the beginning of the 21st century, and this can be attributed to the success of Hip-Hop, R&B, and other genres that have taken the global stage. In the last decade, elements from disco have been explored and sampled by several artistes. Afrodisco finds Iddi blending sounds from Kenya with disco, with the production retaining the traditional features of disco music while adding bits of Kenyan sounds to it.
The genre-blending EP opens with “Free Bird.” The song finds the excited Iddi happy and free, as he croons about his new relationship status, he announces, “I am single.” “Free Bird” is upended by a heavy drum and hard kicks that sometimes drown Iddi’s words. The message in “Free Bird” is sombre, but the production is the opposite – the two never align. Iddi sings from his heart, he laments about his lover’s unfaithfulness. The artiste stirs, “stayed loyal to you, see what you put me through, is this what I get back?” Grandmastatek craftily put listeners in the mood to party with his percussion-driven production. The drums come up intermittently alongside the reverb, guitar, and other instruments.
The production on “Today,” is pivoted on four-on-the-floor beats, syncopated basslines, string sections, electric piano, synthesisers, and electric rhythm guitars. “Let your body move to the sound, there is somebody tonight,” the intro calls on listeners. The lyrics on “Today” are minimal, with Iddi heavily relying on the production. By the time the second verse comes up, Iddi warbles about his feelings for a girl. The reverbs at the mid-section give the song a club-like feel that syncs with Iddi’s message.
On the third track, “In Love,” we find Iddi in his most vulnerable state. After the heartbreak in the opening song and the happy hour on “Today,” he finally gets to taste the sweetness of being in love, and like someone who just had a taste of honey, Iddi doesn’t stop talking about the experience.
The song starts with some uncertainty, “I think I am in denial now, we have been texting on my phone, it’s not my thing but you get me game.” This doubt gives way to a happy ending, and by the end of the song Iddi openly confesses to being in love. The reverb shakers and heavy drums are the prominent instrumentals here, with the backup singers amplifying Iddi’s words. The track is a brilliant combination of skillful hands.
The full element of disco music comes up in “Disco” where the traditional four-on-the-floor beats pattern, syncopated basslines, string sections, electric piano, synthesisers, and electric rhythm guitars all collide to form the beat pattern for this song. From the flow, song pattern, and instrumental, one can observe that the song is made for night-outs. It slowly eases you into the nearest club – a song made for Friday nights. The tune finds the singer happily calling on his lover to party. At the mid-section, the producer makes the reverbs and the base comes up lively. The last ten seconds of the song are devoid of vocals as whistle and synthesisers beautifully mix.
“We don’t need no afterlife, cause your love is paradise,” Iddi confesses on the EP closer, “Paradise.” He likens moments with his lover to being in paradise. The jaunty drums and guitar effortlessly make the production brighter. It is apparent that Iddi is livelier when he sings about love. He digs into his inner soul to draft out a tune that will stand the test of time. The artiste is also clever to bring along sultry backup singers who amplify his songs.
Afrodisco is a gorgeous mix of Kenyan sounds and disco. An experiment like this is not an undertaking for amateurs. Iddi and Grandmastatek expertly leverage each other’s strengths. When one falters, the other covers up. Iddi comes off as an artiste in tune with sounds from the 1980s and 90s, and his ability to mix these with present Kenyan musical elements is commendable. It is a testament to how sounds can co-exist.
At just fifteen minutes long, I am forced to put the project on repeat. I want to always hear this beauty again, as the brilliance of Iddi Singer and Grandmastatek shows in this project.
Lyricism – 1
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 2
Vocalisation – 1
Listening Experience – 2
Rating – 7/10
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s most prolific freelance music critic. He has over 600 album reviews in his archive.