The first time I saw Afrirampo play live was at a home coming gig in Osaka after they’d been touring Europe and America. It must have been around 2005, not long after the release of Urusa In Japan, their first full-length album and debut recording for a relatively mainstream Japanese label. The venue was called Bears, a dark and dingy basement in the subterranean heart of the city. There was no bar, no support bands and no DJ, just a very small room packed with eager fans and a tiny stage. Oni (guitars and vocals) and Pika (drums and vocals), collectively known as Afrirampo, staked their territory like possessed toys that had escaped from their boxes and were setting fire to the doll’s house. Shoeless, dressed in bright red mini skirts and covered in cryptic war paint, Afrirampo completely captivated the entire audience with their mysterious, sonic voodoo power and psychedelic mayhem. Like all great bands at odds with the world but in love with life, Afrirampo had created their own universe and that night we were all desperate to be part of it.
Four years later and Afrirampo have lost none of their infectious stage presence. It’s a strange and empowering amalgamation, the missing link between the revolutionary rawness of MC5, the artful chaos of Acid Mothers Temple and the dedicated showmanship of Guitar Wolf. But despite these comparisons Afrirampo are a band whose musical convictions take them way beyond any possible influences. Afrirampo pretty much sound exactly like Afrirampo, with enough enthusiasm and originality to avoid the trappings of repetition. Making a valiant effort rather than a pointless statement, it’s sincerity that separates Oni and Pika from their international contemporaries. Watching them take the stage at Cargo within London’s fashionable Shoreditch was like watching a dripping streak of neon paint being sprayed across an otherwise dull canvas.
Opening their set with what can only be described as borderline thrash metal, Oni and Pika irreverently journeyed from twisted garage rock melodies to sporadic explosions of visceral noise. A demented combination of frenzied feedback, dense, volcanic rhythms and surreal mischief, even at their most experimental Afrirampo managed to avoid falling into self-indulgence or alienating their audience. The only criticism I have of Afrirampo is how their recent studio material fails to capture the energy of such a great band and the unforgettable experience of their amazing live shows. Forever forced to claw their way out of the darkened “quirky Asian band” pigeonhole, Afrirampo constantly emerge triumphant as one of the best live bands of their generation.