Words by Russ Slater
The complexity, depth and sheer scope of Family Atlantica’s debut release means that after a dozen listens you’ve still only scraped the surface of what’s inside. Created by London-born musician Jack Yglesias, Venezuelan singer Luzmira Zerpa, Nigerian/Ghanaian percussionist Kwame Crentsil and a host of collaborators, the album follows few stylistic rules, venturing into rumba, Venezuelan music, blues and even Ethio-jazz (thanks to a guest appearance from Mulatu Astatké on ‘Escape to the Palenqué’). The only constant is the presence of Zerpa’s astoundingly rich and expressive voice, Crentsil’s percussion and the sense that you’re never really going to know where the album will head next.
You could compare Family Atlantica to the early 70s work of Gilberto Gil, exploring African music with Latin rhythms and a love for Western artists like Jimi Hendrix, but Family Atlantica goes a lot deeper than that. Stories of slaves being shipped to Latin America, of life in Venezuela, of modern displacement of Africans, are all told next to each other. A common thread is created between the stories and musics of Africa and its diaspora; the huge expanse that is the Atlantic Ocean is bridged. Many albums have previously tried to unite African and Latin American music – last year’s AfroCubism being a case in point – but rarely has it been done with so much joy, adventure and expansiveness that it becomes impossible to separate the source from its offshoots. Suddenly, the band’s name makes perfect sense.
TRACK TO TRY: Manicero
(On Soundway Records)