Words by Liam Izod, photo by Mariángel Gonzales
On the strength of the release of just two music videos, Puerto Rican group ÌFÉ were able to command a packed crowd for their UK debut at London’s Rich Mix in Shoreditch. An impressive feat given that producer/percussionist Otura Mun’s group are hardly your typical commercial proposition. ÌFÉ offer an experimental vision of organic electronic music, alloyed with Yoruban theology, the religion in which Mun is a babalao (priest).
Dressed in matching robe-like white shirts and kufi hats, and all sporting large headphones, ÌFÉ’s four percussionists looked like they had come direct from a silent disco at a theological conference. The somewhat shambolic impression carried through to the music. Clave rhythms ricocheted across the stage, triggering murky electro blips and plonks, by means of sensors rigged to the percussion. One woodblock –gaffer taped and trailing a cable – had the appearance of an improvised explosive, but ÌFÉ’s grooves were far from incendiary.
The group’s vocals were a highlight though, with every member singing in powerful chorus. It felt devotional at times, and clearly resonated with many in the audience, whether they understand the lyrics or not. Singer Kathy Cepeda cut a particularly charismatic figure, growling into the mic and exhorting the audience to dance.
While not revolutionary, ÌFÉ’s UK live debut had a raucous raw energy. As the group develop, there may be more than just the Shoreditch-istas at Rich Mix who will want to join Otura Mun’s groove infused guerilla movement.