A humid, late summer night dampened the air and tainted faint clouds on the sky, raindrops rolled down, tapping the earth lightly on a quiet night. So quiet, in fact, that it was hard to notice the small groups of people arriving slowly, an hour later than advertised on the event. A wooden plank leading onto the boat’s roof creaks as the public stepped onto it.
Starting late and filling up slowly, the barge quieting as the first notes of a hang (a steel drum reminiscent of the typically Caribbean sound, played by hand) starts ringing, chiming lightly over the voices. The ringing tune, soft and preening, similar to Jaime XX’s recent songs, repeats itself as the public shuffles closer to the stage. The first note of Jojo Abot’s powerful voice interrupts the rhythm and weaves itself around the public, revealing the haunting sound of her first song. The chorus repeats ‘It’s everyone else, but me.’ Sad and intense, a sharp beat orders the weaving patterns of the hang and the voice, introducing progressively deeper sounds, a drum, and the fall of a base as Jojo Abot sings with a loneliness and longing that wraps around the room.
The intimacy of her EP release and rawness of her performance is clear from the get go. Counterbalancing the somber beats of her set opener, glee rings in her voice as she introduces herself to a crowd that is all too familiar: friends, family, and friends of friends. She explains that her song is part of her memories: ‘It’s so weird… I am sharing my memories with you.’ And indeed, throughout a growing crescendo of intensity, her beats become more and more entwined with the multiple influences in her life, musically infused with afrobeat, jazz, soul’s voice and electronic music’s deeper base; it is ultimately her personal experiences that define the character of her songs.
Intermittently, between songs, she cracks jokes and explains the experiences that gave shape to her sound and inspired each song. And so we hear of the shock of experiencing the state of affairs in the U.S. with regards to discrimination and racism. She is not here to accuse or make you uncomfortable, she says, but ‘hopefully you will feel something.’ A testimony to the racial tensions she experienced while there, her singing becomes staccato while remaining melodic, losing the sadness and gaining in fierce intensity. Her verse merges into a fast succession of words, reminiscent of spoken word and slam poetry. She is, in fact, concerned with the narratives that surround events in her life and others, as her project ‘The Narrative’ testifies. Her music is an expression of the emotion associated with these stories.
The third song of her set reflects back on her childhood and her discovery of how ‘scrumptious a woman’s body is… If you’re into that. You know.’ A crescendo of beats, drums and her escalating voice reflects just that. From the initial delicate sensitivity of her first song, the concert moves to faster and higher beats, the public gets more involved as she calls someone on the stage with her, and the music becomes movement and dance. The undeniably Ghanaian origins of the singer shine as the beat picks up in exhilaration.
Deeply personal and intense, Jojo Abot gives expression to deep stories of identity and womanhood through her sound and presence. She is a fierce talent that, being already an established member of the artistic community in Ghana, should not be overlooked in Europe.