Nigerian-born, US-world citizen Charleston Okafor returns to the musical landscape with his freshest offering in years. The aptly-titled America (out December 2nd on RHOV) arrives right on time like a postcard from the exotic and the street, with its potent mix of Nigerian-tinged Afrobeat, Prince-infused funk, Marley-esque shanty town folk and Pink Floyd texturalism. Driven by a conscious lyrical message born from a soulful, bi-continental history, America makes a simultaneous play for your heart and your hips.
Charleston tapped Canadian global fusion producer Eccodek (aka Andrew McPherson) for his rich production palette and extensive musical community to help bring America’s soulful message to life. Together they crafted an album full of organic, live-off-the-floor intensity, groove and sonic texturalism that drives the diverse lyrical themes of life with two passports, love and partnership, the human soul and power and oppression.
Born the last of 10 sons into a traditional Igbo family in the now defunct Republic of Biafra (Ogidi Inwelle, Anambra North, Southeast, Nigeria), Charleston nurtured the dream of a recording career as far back as he could remember. He left Nigeria for the U.S. to study pre-med at Western Kentucky University, where Charleston discovered the burgeoning cultural melting pot of MTV. He would also begin two lifelong, influential musical friendships that would start him down the road of music. Byron House (bassist for Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush, Dolly Parton) and Bill Bitner (first recording engineer to work with Okafor) would inspire Charleston to abandon his studies in favor of music and pave the way for future encounters with industry heavies like Victor Axelrod (aka Ticklah of Easy Star All Stars, Antibalas, Amy Winehouse) and DJ Spooky, both of whom have remixed Charleston’s earlier work.
The follow up to his debut album Asante Groove, America offers an homage to Charleston’s adopted country. “I have lived my entire adult life in the US, so I’m American as apple pie.” But there is a bigger story here. Charleston calls the musical brew he and McPherson cooked up “moo beat,” or “millennium beat,” a music speaking to our multiculturalism but also our fast paced, urban-centric sensibilities. The electro-dancehall raga of “Rama Rama” could be straight from the club while seducing us with the sunny day simplicity of the beach. Title track “America” feels like Stevie Wonder stopped by to trade licks with Sly Stone and Fela Kuti, and “Fire” channels the spiritual heart of Bob Marley and Al Green with its softly strummed guitars and soulful female backing vocals. Superlative remixes from Dubmatix, Joe Tomino (Dub Trio) and Jake Fader (Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra) help put America over the top, making it a simultaneous fire and brimstone roof-wrecker and soul manifesto that connects Charleston’s deep cultural roots with McPherson’s studio and compositional savvy.
Adding to McPherson’s diverse musical toolkit are the stellar contributions of instrumental heavyweights Stuart Bogie (Antibalas, Arcade Fire, Iron and Wine, David Byrne), Abdou Mboup (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Jon Hassell), Adam Bowman (Alysha Brilla, Kellylee Evans, Eccodek) and Tara Hannish (Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra).
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