Inadvertently 2+ years in the making, Eletrik stems from producer Ayo Osinibi recording a group of Guinea-based performers, the Wofa Group, while visiting the states. Open to experimentation, the seven-piece troupe - considered champions of Wassakhoumba, a Soso name for their main instrument made of small calabash discs of decreasing diameters strung onto curved wood - laid down traditional rhythms alongside local musicians a la ex-Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun, Funkadelic keysman Bernie Worrell and ex-Karsh Kale bassist Damon Banks. Ayo held the tapes for over two years until passing to Organic Grooves founder Sasa Crnobrnja, who laid down digitalism to complement the jams. Various overdubs rounded out the final mixdown, and Eletrik was born.
The Wofa are serious cats playing serious music. Considering themselves sonic ambassadors to the divine, there is no distinction between sounds made and Creation Creating; basically, they are not separate from their instruments, and their instruments are inseparable from divinity. Uninitiated tribesfolk are forbidden to touch or play these sacred objects; if an uncircumcised child touches the Wassakhoumba, he immediately loses the jewels. And to think in America we fear boogie men.
Eletrik is certainly full of boogie, all-together fearless in its union of multiple recording sessions and numerous remixes. Crnobrnja also goes by the name Cosmic Rocker, and his unique stamp is held with honor as the opening "Oya Oye," a celebration chant featuring vocals by Tigist Shibabaw (Gigi's little sis), may well be one of the hottest tracks of 2004. Backed by the hypnotic calabash rhythm, the song vibrates with thumping personality, causing clubheads to unconsciously raise hands and lips in uncontested submission. If Pavlov had his dog, Sasa found his cut-to-rock for all eternity.
House-man by nature, "Dakala" and its rolling balafon blend is downright nasty on the floor. Definitively modern, he quickly quiets the groove into folkier settings via the balafon-led "Cyber-Fula" (featuring Fula Flute Ensemble's Famoro Dioubate) and "Vibin' and Bala-In'." Throughout the record he finds seamless segue between the musical African diaspora and clubheads fixing for inventive beats. The album is not without fault, as later headtrips circa "Bernie Will's Amalgam" and "Yakarama" are interesting at best, but definitely left out on I-Pod selectah list. But hang around until the end, as a killer blues harmonica overlies balafon on "Suso's Exotica," and the dubbed instrumental of the opening track is worthy of the closing spot.
Wofa, which means "come," is a venture into sound where human and divine commune and trade secrets. Their music is ritual, and Eletrik more-than-adequately matches the modern American club in ritualistic immediacy. As computers have taken the role of ceremonial conversation, we have more formats for playing music than ever. Whatever your fix, this record casts a gorgeous spell over all, reserving space in the ever-shrinking world where time and distance are not inaccessible but perfect complements to the new global ritual of technological expansion and artistic creation.