Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Review - Ben Onono - Native Stranger

Ben Onono - Native Stranger

View The Review

5 out of 10

This summer, according to a lot of people, was supposed to be all about the Afrobeat, with Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, Foals and even Pete Doherty professing to be influenced by African music. There have been glimpses of it on Vampire Weekend and Yeasayer's albums, but Damon Albarn's Africa Express extravaganzas remain the most successful integration of indie rock and African music. So from Ben Onono, a man born in Cardiff and based in London but who grew up in West Africa, and who has won the favour of Pete Tong, Giles Peterson and, erm, Ewan McGregor, you might expect something exotic, a genuine melting pot of musical cultures, and it's there in places.

After the creepy opener 'Radio Silence' (Like 'The Exorcist' theme tune or the music from 'Home Alone'), with its mere hints of laid back Cuban sounds, there's the Fela Kuti referencing 'Badagry Beach'. It's edgy carnival music, with some undesirables lurking amongst the other happy go lucky revellers; hypnotic when the proggy, pysch guitar comes in over the top of the traditional rhythms. Onono's signature tune, 'Count To 10' has whistling part ready to take over from Peter, Bjorn & John's 'Young Folks', and it's Balkan-Parisian-Lagosian reggae is just as catchy. There's equally odd merging of sounds on 'Blink', which mixes techno, dinner party background music and the soundtrack to a documentary about birds.

'Caramel', though, perfectly captures the duality of 'Native Stranger'. It's like World Music made for Baa Bar, and for every quirky genre buster there's anonymous lounge ballads like 'Day Of Days', 'Big Blue Moon' and 'Rewind Erase' (Do you remember the music form the computer game 'The Sims'? It reminds me of that). 'Marvin's Groove' is late night commercial radio smooooth, like Simply Red or Lionel Ritchie, with a line about the Jackson 5 setting people free. Even with its intense middle section and rolling Afrobeats, 'Raoul's Wager' is boring. 'Native Stranger', as its title suggests, is stuck in two worlds.


1. Radio Silence
2. Badagry Beach
3. Marvin's Groove
4. Count To 10
5. Day Of Days
6. Big Blue Moon
7. Blink
8. Raoul's Wager
9. Caramel
10. When The Moon Has Past
11. Rewind Erase

No comments: