The dominant form of commercial music sees artists walk in and out each month with touted promise of longevity and consistency. Possibly because it is easier to “make a hit” with technology-powered mixing or sound mastering and internet-tweaked social presence.
This was not so a few decades ago when a legend like Richard Bona had to play several instruments for whole days and teach himself to read and write music till his breakthrough in 1989, when he began working with leading musicians like violinist Didier Lockwood and bassist Marc Ducret. He was 22.
We find a similar strain of dedication in Villy & the Xtreme Volumes, a Nigerian afro-fusion group based in Ghana. They count the results of about seven years of getting the best out of their art.
Over the years African rhythms, through stages of evolution, have been used by performers to engage the realities of socio-political dynamics. Fela Anikulapo Kuti‘s timeless music is a strong example, and it gets more interesting because Villy and his team have been so compared on several platforms. Their songs, including those on new EP Humanimals, remind us that African protest music with substance is here—not only to stay but to make an impact.
“The message is especially for the African mind.,” says Villy, leader of the band. “[It] simply questions everything about the world we live in today to achieve self-realization as Africans. In this EP, I make myself an example of what I think in my own opinion the lay man should be- how to fight for his or her rights and also how to demand answers.”
Omonblanks, who works very close to the band discloses that: “It is an EP with six songs: ‘Alarm’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Which Way’, ‘Humanimals’, ‘Wia My Moni’ and ‘No Way’.”
Their music is a construction of African home-soaked vamps in cooperation with wild percussion and horns aside splendid vocals to form interlocking grooves.
Writing about a previous EP, the website Africa is a Country noted that, "Villy name-drops leaders and officials who are thought to have acted or are continuing to act counter-productively toward the betterment of their nations. Villy & The Xtreme Volumes are on a crusade to champion their cause and are taking the message straight to the people. They might just be that spark that is needed for African pop to reawaken its political roots."
On social media, the band has shared their gratitude for the collaborative efforts of a few others: “We want to sincerely thank Kyekyeku for helping us record the EP on short notice, Kofi B-Ansah; our in-house sound engineer and collaborator, Mensa Ansah & Márton Élő for the dope sound engineering of the EP, Aimuan Ogboghodo for the cover art, Freeman Daniel Ame for vocal coaching, The Republic Bar & Grill for being our favourite test ground, Kunle for blessing us with his harmonica skills, Yetunde Orungbemi for the beautiful voice as well as Francis Kokoroko & Daniel Quist (The Grammy Voices) for their solid backup singing.”
If ever there was any doubt regarding the power of Afro jazz and fusion, one need only be reminded of Manu Dibango and how his soul makossa was sampled on Michael Jackson’s 'Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’'. Villy & The Xtreme Volumes are actually starting something with their EP.