Album Reviews

Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate – Faya

(Localization) UK release date: 19 November 2012

The two musicians responsible for this record are remarkably talented. Joe Driscoll is from New York. If you do a Youtube search of Driscoll’s most famous song, Mixtape Champs, the video reveals him playing every instrument in the song by himself using an effects pedal to seamlessly blend each sound together. As well as being able to play guitar, saxophone and harmonica, Driscoll cleverly uses his voice in several different ways. At one moment, he could be using it to rap nostalgic verses, the next he could be using it to sing soulful choruses. Sometimes, Driscoll even boasts his beat-boxing talents on his tracks, which adds further depth to them.

Sekou Kouyate on the other hand is from Guinea, a small country in West Africa. The proclaimed ‘Jimi Hendrix of kora’ (a kora is a harp-like instrument which is heavily used in West Africa, most notably by Toumani Diabaté) is one quarter of Guinean band, Ba Cissoko. The collective consists of lead vocalist Ba Cissoko, percussionist Ibrahima Bah and his Sekou’s brother Kourou Kouyate. It is travesty that both Kouyate and Driscoll are not familiar names in contemporary music.

After meeting at a French music festival earlier this year called Nuit Metis (French for Nights Of Mixed Race), the two spent time jamming together and eventually finished recording a joint album, entitled Faya. The main premise of Nuit Metis is essentially the same as speed dating, but in musical terms – the aim of the festival encourage musicians of different cultural backgrounds to meet up and collaborate together. Although they both confess to be unfamiliar with each other’s native tongues, the combination of both Sousou and English lyrics seems to work well on Faya.

On first listen, Kouyate’s singing generally flourishes more than Driscoll’s, especially in the slower tracks such as the beautiful album closer, Zion. However, when listening to the album more closely, it seems that Driscoll’s rap-cum-singing works very well on the faster-paced tracks, such as New York and the afro-beat tinged, Passport. The tight kora playing and funky guitar wahs on Lady also mesh well with Driscoll’s voice.

Most rappers like to shout out where they are originally from. The most frequently name-dropped place in Hip Hop has to be without a doubt The Big Apple. Driscoll acknowledges this on the album’s penultimate track, New York, when he sings “New York is the home of the first MC”. Although this is generally a stale topic to write about, Driscoll’s melodic tribute on his home city makes the record sound refreshing.

Despite only consisting of just over half an hours’ worth of music, there is not one bit of filler here. It is impossible to pinpoint a single label to what genre of music this record is. What you have here is a short but sweet mixture of several genres, ranging from Afrobeat to Hip Hop. It will worth catching these guys on their current UK tour if the sound of these songs is anything to go by.

buy Joe Driscoll MP3s or CDs
Spotify Joe Driscoll on Spotify

More on Joe Driscoll
Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate @ Blind Tiger Club, Brighton
Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate – Faya
Joe Driscoll – Origin Myths