Phenomenal London based 8-piece band Kokoroko release their long-awaited debut album Could We Be More via Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings.
Could We Be More is an expansive and ambitious album that speaks to the force of Kokoroko. Each song possesses the energy which so naturally underpins the heartbeat of Kokoroko’s identity – deftly moving through afrobeat, highlife, soul, and funk across the album’s 15 tracks and taking inspiration from a plethora of other influences from West Africa to London and the Caribbean – Could We Be More gifts the listener feelings of homecoming and joy.
“I think home has hugely informed the way we write and play our music,” explains band member Sheila Maurice-Grey, “Everyone comes from completely different backgrounds”. Whilst the band share a “similar love and appreciation for afrobeat and highlife, whether that’s Fela, King Sunny Ade or Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas”, the range of experiences and influences is clear. The album owes much to the sounds they grew up with, Onome Edgeworth adds “It’s that feeling when you’re younger and you hear something and you feel some ownership over it.” For some it was Nigerian music and soul or reggae and gospel – music that when they heard it elsewhere there was a certain pride and energy that came with it. As such the album brims with both a lifetime absorbing the lessons of the peculiar London musical melting pot that takes in soul, funk, rare groove, afrobeat and music that reflects the environment from everywhere in the world. The heartbeat of the album resides in London, whilst evoking both Afrobeat and the majestic orchestral soul of 70s Harlem, equal parts the raw guitar of King Sunny Ade and the lush orchestrated horns of Donald Byrd and more.
Title track ‘We Give Thanks’ sums it all up perfectly – a song that encapsulates the feeling of playing live and wanting to give that energy back to the audience, while War Dance is both dreamily orchestral and subtly aggressive. The joyous ’Good Times’ both nods to the sound of the London pirate radio golden age and is a hymn to the feeling of nostalgia, while ‘Soul Searching’ delivers a dreamlike introspective groove. ‘Could We Be More’ is an album that lives in Kokoroko’s shared heritage at the same time as the vibrancy of 2022 London.
Kokoroko have come to represent all that is blissfully sweet about London’s music scene – an echo of the past that has taken on new improvised forms while still sounding entirely original. The band are a vibrant example of the shape of things to come for British music: having released just 7 tracks (1x EP and 3x singles) in their short career, they have quickly developed a huge cult following with 60Million+ Spotify streams to their name and a classic record already under their belt in 2018’s intimate viral ‘Abusey Junction’.
As they release their similarly immersive debut album, Kokoroko’s return feels particularly poignant. The collective are already winners of ‘Best Group’ at the Urban Music Awards 2020 and the Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2021, have been lauded in the NPR Austin 100 list, been crowned One To Watch by The Guardian, played across the globe at the likes of Glastonbury, Meltdown Festival, Elbjazz, Jazz a la Villette, We Out Here, SIM São Paulo and BBC6 Music Festival (to name a few), performed a raucous session for Boiler room and made their BBC Proms debut in the Royal Albert Hall; all up front of their debut record, which is as progressive and musically versatile as you would expect from the eight different personalities within Kokoroko.
With equal support across BBC Radio 1, BBC 6Music, Jazz FM, CLASH, Crack, The Observer, Evening Standard, Mixmag, Trench, gal-dem, Loud & Quiet, Rolling Stone, NATAAL + many more – what Kokoroko have achieved in the past four years is nothing short of remarkable.