Album Review: ÌFÉ – IIII + IIII [Discos Ifà – 31st March 2017]


There is an ancient city in south-west Nigeria named Ifè, the origins of which were sown by the seed of a palm tree planted by the god Oduduwa – an ancient Yoruba myth tells.

ÌFÉ is also the name of the latest project of Mark Underwood, aka Otura Mun (whom we interviewed one year ago), a Puerto Rico-based producer, drummer and singer who is also a Babalawo (High Priest) in the Yoruba religion.

He is well known in the Puerto Rican music scene for producing some of the best works of contemporary local artists, and his latest work IIII + IIII (pronounced “Edgy-Og-Beh”) is a blissful encounter of ancient Afro-Caribbean spirituality and electronic music.

ÌFÉ’s music is impossible to define – an intricate blend of sacred Yoruba music, Rumba and Caribbean rhythms, dancehall and contemporary electronic sounds – yet it sounds solid, coherent and powerfully unique.

After a vocal hypnotic prelude “Preludio (Egiogbe)”, track number two “Bangah” is a hypnotic mantra slipping between languages, that exudes all of this richness in an incessant rhythm scanned by Underwood’s voice, mulishly repeating words and phrases in Spanish, Arabic, English and Yoruba language.

The languages, just like the sounds, mix sinuously in ÌFÉ’s tracks, creating a rich texture that stands out by itself – a sense of suspension that lies in between the bits and pieces one can understand and an exotic suggestion of ancestral idioms unknown to most.

“Yumavision conveys that sense of lightness and suspension in an intimate confession of devotion, a feeling reinforced by the celestial synths of the following tracks, “Umbo (Come Down)”.

Soothing and serene, like “House of Love”, deeply contemporary and yet rooted in traditional sounds, like the pristine choirs in “3 Mujeres”, IIII + IIII is a work capable of bringing distant worlds together at once. A sensual female voice, singing in local language intertwines perfectly with the raw and fierce electronic composition in “Prayer for Oduduwa”, a soft chant that gently carries you to a dimension of intimacy and abstraction.

The music of ÌFÉ is at once raw and graceful, calm and thrilling, spiritual and secular. Most of all it is incredibly fresh and uncompromising, trying to be nothing else than itself: A wonderful composition of souls, voices and sounds, impregnated with a profound spiritual wisdom and enriched by the visionary musical sensitivity of Otura Mun, a stunning raw diamond that everybody should listen to, at least once.

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