We all know the well-worn cliches of how “music is the universal language” and that “music transcends all borders” because we’ve heard them countless times in our lives — and yet, there’s a profound truth in it. Certainly, that was the case for the unique collaboration of the Syracuse, NY-born and UK-based singer/songwriter Joe Driscoll, who beatboxes, plays guitar and uses looping machines and Sekou Kouyate, the Guinean kora player who has become a phenomenon in African music circles for his use of effects and distortion pedals with the kora.
Driscoll speaks no French, and Kouyate, who’s from a Francophone country speaks little English. And yet when the two were brought together during the 2010 Nuit Metis (Mixed Nights) Festival in Marseille, France. Obviously without either man being able to communicate verbally, the only way they could communicate was through music, and they quickly discovered that they had such a simpatico that they formed a band together, toured over 120 dates across Europe to rave reviews, no less, and then recorded their debut effort, Faya which Cumbacha Discovery will release on February 18th.
The album’s first single, “Passport” is a accessible mix of three or four different styles – elements of folk, hip-hop traditional African music, Western pop but in a way that feels warmly familiar, friendly and breezy. The album’s latest single (and album title track) “Faya” continues the preceding single’s breezy feel but focuses more on hip-hop and reggae that’s kind of reminiscent of acts like Umpreys McGee, Matisyahu and others. And much like those artists, there’s a sweetness at the song’s center that’s sincere and infectious.