The Afro-pop group Elikeh started with an ad in a local paper placed by Togo-born singer and guitarist Massama Dogo. He wanted to play music after he moved to the Washington, D.C. area and was looking for like-minded musicians. Since that inauspicious start, the band has evolved and shifted its focus. With three albums under its belt, Elikeh has cultivated an original sound, one that reflects the diverse musicians who’ve come together to make music, and one that sets bodies in motion.
“We want to have a sound that represents who we are as a band, not just a Western sound and not just an African sound,” Dogo says.
At the core of their sound are West African rhythms, Dogo’s piece of the puzzle. But more than half a dozen musicians – some who hail from the Washington, D.C. area and others who’ve come here from all across the globe – make up Elikeh and have added their experience to the musical mix. Funk, rock, jazz, and blues are fused with Togolese rhythms, played on guitars, keys, horns, and an eclectic variety of percussion instruments.
Elikeh put out its first album, Nyade, in 2006. But Dogo says it doesn’t reflect the music the band is making now.
“The sound of the band was not on the album,” Dogo says. “It was just friends trying to get something going.”
The group’s second album – 2010’s Adje! Adje! – is where you can hear the band approaching its particular Afro-pop blend of Western and African music, Dogo says, and 2012’s Between Two Worlds is where they found it.
“The name, Between Two Worlds, is everything about the album,” Dogo says.
Not only did the musical inspiration on their most recent album come from around the globe, but the recordings did, too. The album was recorded in Mali, Togo, and back here in the D.C. area, enlisting guest acclaimed guitarists Vieux Farka Toure of Mali and local favorite John Kadlecik.
Between Two Worlds won a Washington Area Music Association Wammie for Best World Music Album, and placed third in a Washington City Paper poll ranking the best local albums of 2012.
It’s big praise for a band that stays local. They stick to East Coast gigs and frequent venues like Iota Club and Café and Rock and Roll Hotel. When The Wailers came to D.C., Elikeh was the opening act. They got the chance last summer to play the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. They’re set to take the stage April 4 at D.C.’s Black Cat.
Dogo jokes that if you can’t dance, you shouldn’t come to an Elikeh show. In the midst of showcasing the breadth of musical experiences and the influences of their musicians, the band is also focused on the audience’s experience. Elikeh wants to make music you can listen to, and definitely music you can dance to.
“They know when they come to an Elikeh show, there’s no way they’re not going to have fun, there’s no way they’re not going to dance, and there’s no way they’re not going to sing,” Dogo said.
• For more information about Elikeh, visit elikeh.net.