Gonjasufi- live review

Gonjasufi
Manchester band On The Wall
May 16th 2011
photo by Georgina Cullen more great pics from the gig here

Well this was not what anyone expected!

Gonjasufi has been creeping onto the radar in the last couple of years because of his March 2010 Warp records released ”˜A Sufi And A Killer’ album. Produced by Flying Lotus it was a totally original mash of eerie atmospherics, wonky hip-hop and weird beard neo psychedelic grooves and snippets. There were off the wall beats, samples of Ethiopiques and other car boot sale world music samples with these plaintive, weird world, vocals that have been described as George Clinton meets Leadbelly but sounded like nothing else.

It’s an amazing record that is far better than its chin stroking expectations and takes you on a long weird trip to somewhere else.

The interviews at the presented Gonjasufi (born Sumach Ecks, aka Sumach Valentine in 1978 of Mexican and Ethiopian blood) as the wackoid, desert dwelling freak who taught yoga and had been on the San Diego hip hop scene for a decade with the Masters Of Universe crew.

So the scene was set for some far out hip hop, I was expecting some sort of Sun Ra with the beats kind of evening, a long strange trip into outer and inner space.
What we got was something entirely and brilliantly different.

The band shuffled on stage, guitar, bass and drums and Gonjasufi walked past to a big cheer and sat down in the far corner and to a pile of laptops and portastudio gear- so far so good- weird warped hip hop on its way then.

Suddenly there was a squall of eclectic noise and the band dived into three songs of neo hardcore- like Bad Brains meets the Stooges meets Metal Box Pil- a stunning switch in expectation perfectly delivered. My adrenalin rush was something else- Gonjasufi crouched over the mic- manic and dangerous like primetime HR from the aforementioned Bad Brains- dreads flailing, sweat pouring and mics breaking.

He kept taking the top of the mic off and cupping his hand over it to create a more muffled sound that, oddly, really helped making his impassioned singing more boxy and in your face powerful, it all added to the spittle flecked anarchy.

The audience, momentarily stunned, quickly got on the trip and were waving back and forth to the pure assault. In place of the groove guru here was a Gonjasufi who looked and felt dangerous. Pure hardcore. A deadly, dreadlocked ninja assassin. Pure raw power. Like Iggy Stooge when he was the killer or like nothing ever before.

He did play some stuff on the album but it was so radically altered that it was sometimes hard to tell, was that ”˜Rebirth’ with its native American tribal chanting? Was that ”˜Kobwebz’ as the band hit a tripped out, dubby, hip hop groove? An exploration of eclectic- the restless the band switched from the hardcore rush to trip hop freakiness and loose elastic grooves.

The band was amazing, they could switch style with an ease- tight, concise and impassioned they were walking right on the frontline of the electric 21st century musical frontline.

They could have been just at home playing with Black Flag, Public Enemy and Bob Marley- sometimes they sounded like all three at once, except they were three decades into the future.

And if this is the future, I’m there.

Gonjasufi website

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  1. correction: A SUFI AND A KILLER was primarily produced by THE GASLAMP KILLER, with production on a couple tracks by FLYING LOTUS and MAINFRAME …

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