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Afrobeats harmonize with British electronica on the latest from Ibibio Sound Machine

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

These days, the influence of West African pop music is everywhere.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ESSENCE")

TEMS: (Singing) You don't need no other body. You don't need no other body.

SHAPIRO: That's "Essence" by the Nigerian artists Wizkid and Tems, a strong contender for last year's song of the summer. But what happens when you combine Afrobeats with British electronica?

(SOUNDBITE OF IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE SONG, "PROTECTION FROM EVIL")

SHAPIRO: Ibibio Sound Machine is an Anglo African band from London, and for their latest project, they've teamed up with the veteran electronic group Hot Chip. The album is called "Electricity," and our critic Will Hermes has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE SONG, "PROTECTION FROM EVIL")

WILL HERMES, BYLINE: Ibibio Sound Machine have a name recalling Miami Sound Machine, the 1980s Latin pop juggernaut commanded by Gloria Estefan. They also share an approach - mashing up music from their immigrant communities with sounds from outside of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROTECTION FROM EVIL")

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE: (Singing in Ibibio).

HERMES: Lead singer Eno Williams grew up in Nigeria, speaking the Ibibio language, listening to American soul music, funk and disco alongside West African highlife and Afrobeat. Then she moved to London and started playing with Ghanaian guitarist Alfred Bannerman and Australian saxophonist Max Grunhard. You can hear all these elements in "17 18 19," a song based on a Nigerian playground chant.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "17 18 19")

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE: (Singing) Seventeen, 18, 19. (Singing in Ibibio). Seventeen, 18, 19. (Singing in Ibibio). Don't make a promise you can't keep. Promises and trust you mustn't break.

HERMES: Ibibio Sound Machine songs are sung in both English and Ibibio, but Alfred Bannerman's guitar speaks many languages. He played with the pioneering Afro rock band Osibisa in the '90s, where he mastered the psychedelic Santana-like wail he unleashes here on the song "Oyoyo."

(SOUNDBITE OF IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE SONG, "OYOYO")

HERMES: What makes "Electricity" different from Ibibio Sound Machine's previous album, though, is the help of Hot Chip, a British group that's been obsessing over old-school club music for more than 20 years now. Together, they pump up African funk with synthesizers, and Eno Williams manifests the mighty house diva who always seemed to be lurking in the wings on Hot Chip albums.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ELECTRICITY")

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE: (Singing) Let me speak from the heart. Without love, there's no, no, no electricity.

HERMES: The challenge for collaborations like this one is letting musicians from different cultures find common ground without diluting their unique strengths, a useful metaphor for life in the melting pot most of us live in. It's a tough balancing act. On some songs, I want the band to push a little deeper into techno and house music territory. Other times, I'd like to hear more of Bannerman's guitar. But most of the time, Ibibio Sound Machine make all these elements harmonize, and they do it thrillingly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THAT YOU WANT")

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE: (Singing in Ibibio).

SHAPIRO: The new album from Ibibio Sound Machine is called "Electricity." Our critic Will Hermes is the author of "Love Goes To Buildings On Fire."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THAT YOU WANT")

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE: (Singing in Ibibio). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.