French duo Ireke journey deep into tropical climes, mining a world of intoxicating, Afro-Caribbean rhythms for their debut album “Tropikadelic”.

Ireke (meaning ‘Sugar Cane’ in Yoruba) are a French duo with musical bona fides and a range of friends to enlist as guests. Sharing a love of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and heroes like Fela Kuti and King Tubby, multi-instrumentalists and arrangers, Damien Tesson and Julien Gervaix, set out to make their first album a “call to dance”.

Arranger, saxophonist & multi instrumentalists Julien Gervaix, has played in multiple outfits, most notably the Natnes based collective Soulshine and the Afrobeat group Walko, in which he had the honour of sharing the stage and the studio for several years with Kiala Nzavotunga, guitarist extraordinaire for Fela Kuti and Egypt 80.

Damien Tesson first cut his teeth as dubmaster, guitarist and arranger with the Vendée collective Shi Fu Mi Temple. This initiation led Damien Tesson to join, among others, the Nantes-based group BIBA (Bingy Band) and then to collaborate with Jideh High Elements, a key figure on the international dub scene, Roberto Sanchez and the team of his Lone Ark Studio, as well as Sana Bob, a reggae singer from Burkina Faso.

The pair first came together in a group called Playtime, essentially a meeting of passionate music-loving friends. However they had an itch to create something greater, more ambitious.

”Above all it was the love of the groove that brought us together which is still today the guideline of Ireke. We wanted to go deeper exploring the sounds emanating from the Caribbean” they explain.

Positive approach

On the album “Tropikadelic” you will find ten upbeat recordings. After the initial sugary taste of ‘Femme Qui Danse’ and ‘Love Is Jokin’, for example, you suspect that a lot of air has been whipped into the mix.

The opening ‘Petit à Petit’ and ‘Oh Ma Chérie (Petit à Petit Part 2)’, both sung sweetly by Agnès Hélène, are more convincing but equally fluffy. ‘Man Bo Diak’, however, with a nice vocal by the Franco-Laotian reggae artist Amatah Keo, has a more substantial, dub-infused, house vibe, while the added Afrobeat-style horns beef up the ringing guitars on ‘Métissage’ and its instrumental equivalent, ‘T’es Haut’.

“Electro Highlife” is the longest song on the album, evoking a long night spent partying somewhere in the Caribbean.

Overall, this album enlivens the spring music offerings and should not be bypassed by any fan of exotic rhythms.

Joss Yerbury and NMR (foto: press Ireke)