Bib Na Mpu (Maurice Fulton Dub)
Haraka Haileti Baraka
Tungi Review – Mon 5th July 2010
Gerd Janson’s Running Back has earned itself a steady reputation as a first-rate purveyor of robust, glistening disco-house—wave-making releases like 12-inches by Tensnake and their reissue of Heaven & Earth’s Prescription EP spring immediately to mind. The label’s first full-length release, Zanzibar singer Mim Suleiman’s Tungi, is an inspired curveball from a comparative unknown.
Tungi deals in futuristic Afrobeat, updating the sonic spirit from her native East Africa with a contemporary electronic palette. Suleiman is no stranger to the glories of multi-culti collaboration, having previously lent her pipes to Sheffield groups like the funk-soul outfit Bare Knuckle Soul and Afrobeat troupe Rafiki Jazz. Somehow then it seems like less than a coincidence that she fell into the company of one Maurice Fulton, himself a Sheffield resident. A veritable acid-disco wizard, you may have last seen the man masked as Syclops for team DFA. On Tungi Fulton brings an eclectic production palette to underscore Suleiman’s salutatory Swahili: it’s as good of a meeting of the minds as one would hope from the lead single “Nyuli,” ten extended tracks that form a bright, breathless excursion into disco, house and tribal rhythms.
Early highlight “Bipi Na Mpu” shows both Mim and Maurice hard at work, tossing out riff-heavy deep disco laced with Mim’s sunny Swahili. Other mash-ups fare just as well—see “Flava”‘s Frankenstein stitch between Chicago house and heavy tribal percussion, with drums in transcontinental dialogue, frenetic Chicago snares meet flurrying hand toms. On the whole, however, traditional African percussion is in interestingly short supply here, showing up on “Flava” and in cameo flourishes on “Mingi.” The latter is also where Suleiman vanishes halfway through only to return as a reverb-drenched spectral multitude, chanting in from the ether. This is indicative of Suleiman’s vocal play, moving across the space of the stereo field, swooping in for the lead, receding to another instrument in the mix and at times disappearing altogether. At those points Fulton kicks into extended workout mode, offering the sort of druggy, microcosmic repetitions you might except from a guy whose last hit single was called “Where’s Jason’s K?”
The pastoral “Sherehekeya” is perhaps Tungi’s most tightly synergetic number, where Western and African elements fuse completely together instead of being stacked tastefully on top of one another. Here Fulton opens up his 808 and lets it breathe, capped by nice reverse ppsshhts and wobbly bass sequences, sounding like a modest herd of machine-hearted gazelles grazing on some sunny plain.