Album Review: Daniel Dzidzonu – Unknownland [Zephyrus Records, 31st March 2017]


Born into the sounds of gospel and West African percussion, and exposed at a young age to the magical sounds of a full brass band, Daniel Dzidzonu’s Unknownland is a smooth blend of traditional afrobeat, jazz, modern vocals and killer brass sounds.

Hailing from Togo and now residing in Belgium, Daniel’s accomplished trumpet playing was honed from a young age listening to his father’s brass band which performed at church services and weddings. When a very young Daniel was given the opportunity to blast a note form a trumpet he enthusiastically grabbed it and surprised everyone with his natural talent. He continued to learn from those band members to become the band leader as a teenager. Now as a masterful composer of modern afrobeat and highlife tunes Unknownland will give you plenty of familiar reference points, yet has a soulful groove that sets it apart from some other modern afrobeat.

Kicking off with the up-tempo “Tsome” the horns and percussive sounds from Daniel and the band will get you moving and show off his Trumpet playing skills as well as vocal sounds. In contrast, the more down tempo and soulful “Vikpome” is a beautifully arranged piece of modern afrobeat with stripped back guitars, percussion and vocals injected with bursts of horns in a more jazz-like style.

The title track “Unknownland” has the band playing what might feel like a familiar horn arrangement, however the stripped back guitar, soulful vocals and subtle percussion gives it a lovely summer vibe. “Emergency in Africa (E.I.A)” talks about current day issues in Africa and migration with a tight afrobeat groove behind it. “Akpenado” and “Afro Dream” continue in the effortless afrobeat, jazzy, soulful style and bring what is a great fusion of tradition and modernity, with its roots in West Africa yet clearly influenced by the sounds of modern African music coming out from around the globe.

You can catch Daniel Dzidzonu and his band live this summer playing at various venues and festivals in Belgium. Be sure to check him out and feel the summer vibes!

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