Ibibio Sound Machine: You Need This In Your Life

Nostalgia is a very powerful and dangerous drug. Often, it blinds us into thinking that the past was always this perfect thing. It’s one thing to be mindful of things and days gone by; it’s quite another to hold onto them as if the world, and oneself, didn’t grow older, move on and change. How dangerous? You have those friends from high school, right? The ones who believe that their best days are behind them, hating anything new, strange or different, and becoming bitter and angry about it. That’s how dangerous nostalgia can be.

Ibibio Sound Machine. (l-r) Jose Joyette, Max Grunhard, Derrick McIntyre, Eno Williams, Scott Baylis and Alfred Kari Bannerman. Photo by Dan Wilton.

To illustrate what looking back but thinking forward can do, all one has to do is look at the hottest World Music act of this decade: Ibibio Sound Machine. It doesn’t hurt that they are quite simply also the hottest Dance band of this decade as well. Now think about that for a moment: since 1979, how many “Dance” acts have been groups that have succeeded in winning over new fans year after year? By and large, Dance music now has been relegated primarily to DJ’s using a multitude of electronic devices to create music, instead of the more organic groove that a well-season group of musicians can give.

Ibibio Sound Machine initially started off as a producer driven group, by Max Grunhard, Leon Brichard, and Benji Bouton, fans of older music styles from West Africa, namely the sounds of 1970’s African High Life and African Disco, both of which were much more Funk and R&B driven than their names imply. They wished to bring the sound back, but update it with some elements of later musical styles, such as disco, post-punk, electronic music and Drum and Bass. Upon finding singer Eno Williams, a London-born but Nigerian raised singer, the trio realized they hit on something special. Eno sings in English and Ibibio (the native tongue of her mother, who hails from southern Nigeria), effortlessly switching between the two, sometimes in mid-sentence.

“… some songs, the English just translated easier and flowed easily between English and Ibibio.

eno williams, lead vocals, ibibio sound machine

With help from another influential English DJ who loves world music, Gilles Peterson, their debut single became a club smash in London. Quickly but carefully assembling a performing touring band, they also won over a live music fanbase. The group features members young, mature, black, white, hispanic and even feature a guitarist who once played with one of the purveyors of World Music before that genre even had a name: Osibisa.

Ibibio Sound Machine are new band that is more than a nostalgia act: they are one of the few groups keeping and updating an African musical heritage, but keeping its sound thoroughly modern on purpose. Opposed to the DJ culture that has become commonplace among Dance music events, Ibibio Sound Machine illustrate clearly that there ain’t nothing like the real thing.

Ibibio Sound Machine Playlist

  • Tell Me (Doko Mien), Doko Mien, 2019
  • The Talking Fish (Asem Usem Iyak), Ibibio Sound Machine, 2014,
  • Joy (Idaresit), Uyai, 2017
  • Amai Ndiwulule, Beating Heart: Malawi, 2015
  • She Work Very Hard, Doko Mien, 2019


  • Let’s Dance (Yak Inek Unek), Ibibio Sound Machine, 2014

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Host, Producer, Audio Engineer and Writer

“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for ‘fair use’ for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”