Diamonds on the souls of his tunes

African-laced IDM glitters on Ribongia’s new EP.


Every time there’s a suggestion that some new music has an ‘ethnic fusion’ aspect to it, I feel uneasy. Quite often, it means an artist has taken a fleeting glance at the top layer of the folk music of a foreign land, mixed it with their own preconceptions and thrown it together without much regard for its context.

So I’m glad to say it’s with open arms I embrace Sydney-based producer Ribongia’s new EP Escapisms, a collection of tracks that pander to the conventions of both African folk and EDM to keep the identities intact, but also places them very comfortably beside each other.

Some tracks manage this beautifully, showcasing the intrinsically interesting rhythms of African folk while providing us with a lush bed of ambient electronica. Downstream, for example, skips along with an ambling chant, all undercut by tuned 808 kicks, ocean-floor pads and Lemon Jelly-esque percussion.

Not everything is so friendly, however. Sometimes it goes hard. Hard and dark, in a good way. OYO keeps the African influence in the sounds it uses, then covers them in the grit of grime and it’s American cousin trap. Pulsing synths sit over deep drums – decay up to max, of course – and tittering Hi-hats, taking a break in the middle to go almost-Aphex with a ballistic IDM beat.

It’s not all so well gelled, however. EP closer Nomads Du Niger seems like the most obvious electronic track I’ve heard in a long time, even going to far as to open with an Amen Break. The sounds on this piece feel as tacked on as the track itself, coming across like the top of the pile of his DAWs ‘IDM’ sample pack.

It’s good then that this isn’t representative of the whole EP. Ribongia showcases his impressive repertoire through these 6 tracks, jumping around an interesting palette of sounds and styles while managing to hold on to the central African inspiration and keeping it danceable. If we keep getting artists who treat the source material with as much care and reverence as Ribongia does, it may well change my perception on ethnic fusions.

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