Ibibio Sound Machine, Rina Mushonga: Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool
Shaun Ponsonby and Brian Sayle head to Invisible Wind Factory to dance the night away with two funky African influenced stars in the making.
Last year, Ibibio Sound Machine were booked as one of the headliners at Liverpool Sound City. But it wasn’t to be.
For whatever reason, they pulled out of the festival, leaving a cultural hole in that year’s line-up. So, this return to the city was hotly anticipated at Slop HQ, and we weren’t going to miss it for the world.
The Invisible Wind Factory should have been a perfect venue for them – but unfortunately the sheer size of the space means that unless it is close to capacity, it doesn’t feel as full as it probably is.
Not that this dampened the spirits of those of us in attendance. On the contrary, if there is one thing Ibibio Sound Machine can do with ease, it is bring the party.
Much of this responsibility lies on the shoulders of singer Eno Williams, a superstar if we ever saw one. Captivating us with the smallest gesture, Williams has perfected the art of the front person. It is all in the details; a small facial expression, a shimmy here, a quick step there. The band are funky, and you’re ready to get down. But you are also mesmerised by Williams.
One upside of the venue is that the size of the stage means the eight piece have no problems fitting on stage (which we imagine would be a challenge in some smaller venues); three horn players, drummer and bongo players, bass and guitar.
They make no attempt to recreate the sound of the records, where there is often a more electronic element. On stage, they squarely put the emphasis on the more afrobeat side of their sound, which seems particularly apt with their lyrics, which veer between English and Ibibio – a Nigerian language that was the native tongue of Williams’ mother.
The highlights came thick and fast, from their latest album Tell Me (Doko Mien) and the undeniably funky Wanna Come Down packed the biggest punch. But it was Give Me a Reason from their breakthrough album Uyai that received the biggest response of the night. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, as it encapsulates everything that is both great and unique about this group of musicians.
Williams undoubtedly has potential as a star, but we can’t help but feel that if she was to pursue that direction, it would mean losing that uniqueness – the reason we all fell under her spell in the first place. We certainly wouldn’t have nights like this, where we felt we were witnessing something truly special.
Rina Mushonga proved to be a perfect warm up. The Dutch-Zimbabwean artist mainly drew from her acclaimed new album In a Galaxy and provided the synthpop influence that ISM didn’t reproduce. At times it seemed like she was still finding her feet – which is to be expected for a support act. But make no mistake, she is definitely on her way to something just as special as Ibibio.
Photos by Brian Sayle