After a long wait, Melbournes Public Opinion Afro Orchestra (The
POAO) is set to release their second album, Naming & Blaming, a
pulsing, percussive journey into classic afrobeat. Recorded by a 17 piece
ensemble, led by fierce vocals and a howling horn section, its a fitting
21st-century response to the world-shaking music of 1970s Nigeria.
The result is true to the afrobeat blueprint of hypnotic, extended songs,
improvisation and political comment but adds to the formula a host of
pan-African influences and hip-hop elements that reflect the deep
ranging roots of the band.
As the title suggests, and in true afrobeat tradition, Naming & Blaming
pulls no punches. It is an outspokenly political record, a cauldron of strong
opinions where indignation and optimism coexist. Led by the vocals of MC
One Sixth and singer Lamine Sonko, the critique of colonialism is applied
to both the African and Australian experience, the battles of many cultures
informing the groups ethos as does the importance of community and
staying true to ones convictions. Uplifting visions of a brighter possible
future as laid out in No Passport, the albums rambunctious opening
song, are balanced with honest reflections on injustice like guest Robbie
Thorpes take on Australias chequered history in the title track.
For the Naming & Blaming cover, the band was honoured to have the
opportunity to work with one of the originators of the Afrobeat movement
Lemi Ghariokwu, the legendary collage artist and illustrator responsible
for all of Felas most famous album covers of the 1970s. This relationship
is what the POAO is all about, paying respects to the culture and keeping
it alive and relevant in the 21st century. Over the last decade, The POAO
have established themselves as a firm festival favourites with their
contemporary approach to Afrobeat.