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Elikeh brings African roots music to D.C.

Friday - 8/24/2012, 10:51am  ET

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The eight-piece band uses elements of Togolese and other traditional African music as a foundation for exploration into American influenced rock and funk. (Courtesy of John Shore)

Band celebrates its diversity

WTOP's Tim Bracken reports.

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Tim Bracken, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Local songwriter Massama Dogo and his band Elikeh are celebrating the release of their new album with a performance at the Black Cat nightclub Friday.

"The name Elikeh means roots," Dogo explains. "In our case...rooted in African music."

The eight-piece band uses elements of Togolese and other traditional African music as a foundation for exploration into American-influenced rock and funk. The title of the album, "Between 2 Worlds," references Dogo's personal experience as an immigrant from West Africa, the band's sound and even the recording process.

Portions of the album were recorded in Mali, Togo and Maryland. Elikeh's first incarnation showcased strictly authentic traditional African music, but that quickly changed. Each band member's individual musical background eventually became woven into the group's sound.

"We are from different places. We can't just play music from one single place," which makes this "something really different, and I think it's a good thing," Dogo says.

The result of that natural musical evolution brought forth songs that simultaneously evoke Afrobeat, reggae, '70s funk and American soul music. The new album also features guest appearances from John Kadlecik of Dark Star Orchestra and Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré.

Listen to a song from the album:

Elikeh - Olesafrica by WTOP-Backstage

Bandleader Dogo's often political lyrics bring a sense of urgency and purpose to the music. He touches on themes of social injustice in West Africa and the U.S.

"I think it comes naturally," he says. "I don't force it."

Regardless of what words are sung, the music of Elikeh celebrates life. Dogo cites an African funeral tradition as inspiration.

"People sing and are happy," Dogo says. "We talk about serious stuff, but we put it onto good music."

"Between 2 Worlds" is now available on iTunes, and CDs will be available for purchase at the Friday, Aug. 24 Black Cat album release concert. Tickets for the show are $12 at the door and the doors open at 9 p.m. The Black Cat is located at 1811 14th St., NW.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)