Liam Izod previews the UK live debut of the Puerto Rican group ÌFÉ, who undertake an experimental fusion of percussion, electronics and dance.
We live in an era of producers stepping out from behind their studio consoles to share top billing with performers and even eclipse them. So we perhaps owe thanks to this blurring of the boundary between producer and artist for Otura Mun’s intriguing new project and group ÌFÉ, who make their live UK debut at Rich Mix on September 23 amid much hype and mystery.
Otura Mun – a drummer by background – has been producing on the Puerto Rican scene since he arrived from the US in the 90s. Artists like Mima, Cultura Profética and Calma Carmona have all benefitted from his affinity with rhythm and groove. He decided to launch a solo project last year, after a chance engagement with the Life Magazine archive coverage of the 1965 Watts riots in LA, scenes that echo depressingly loud in the modern US of Mun’s birth. From ‘Life’ came ìfé, the Yoruba word for ‘love’ and ‘expansion.’
Expansion is an appropriate motto for ÌFÉ, as Mun takes a multi-sensory approach to music, treating dance and videography as equal partners. ÌFÉ’s most revolutionary expansion is to add a harmonic dimension to percussive instruments. Otura Mun has practiced some musical DIY, fitting traditional percussion with electronic sensors that trigger harmonic elements.
In an interview with New York Based journalist and academic Ed Morales, Mun explains ‘I love electronic music, but it’s always seemed a little stiff and rigid.’ His electro percussion allows him to dispense with the strait-jacket of pre-programmed sequences without losing the expanded musical palette that electronics allow. The result – complex currents of groove punctuated by catchy electro squelches – is unsettling in its novelty but stays with you.
Otura Mun is ordained in the Yoruba religion as a priest or babalao, which literally means ‘father of mysteries.’ There is certainly a lot of mystery and mysticism around ÌFÉ, who have only released two tracks so far. September brings an opportunity for Londoners to see how the ÌFÉ experiment translates to the live stage. It promises to be an out-of-the-ordinary experience.