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After a long wait, Melbourne’s Public Opinion Afro Orchestra (The POAO) have released their second album, ‘Naming & Blaming’, a pulsing, percussive journey into classic afrobeat. Recorded by a 17 piece ensemble, led by fierce vocals and a howling horn section, it’s a fitting 21st-century response to the world-shaking music of 1970s Nigeria. The result is true to the afrobeat blueprint of hypnotic, extended songs, improvisation and political comment but adds to the formula a host of pan-African influences and hip-hop elements that reflect the deep ranging roots of the band.
As the title suggests, and in true afrobeat tradition, Naming & Blaming pulls no punches. It is an outspokenly political record, a cauldron of strong opinions where indignation and optimism coexist. Led by the vocals of MC One Sixth and singer Lamine Sonko, the critique of colonialism is applied to both the African and Australian experience, the battles of many cultures informing the group’s ethos as does the importance of community and staying true to one’s convictions. Uplifting visions of a brighter possible future as laid out in “No Passport,” the album’s rambunctious opening song, are balanced with honest reflections on injustice like guest Robbie Thorpe’s take on Australia’s chequered history in the title track.