On the back of the tearaway success of Leftfield’s Leftism, released in January 1995, the group’s seventh single, The Afro-Left EP, landed in July of that year (24 years ago this week!), featuring Neil Cole, aka Djum Djum, on vocals.
While not as visceral as Open Up, or ethereal as Release the Pressure, Afro-Left is when Leftism ‘takes off’, setting the album’s progressive house rhythms in motion. The lyrics, while appearing to be of an unspecified African origin, are in fact gibberish, as Leftfield revealed on their website some years later.
The iconic twanging rhythm was provided by a berimbau, a single string instrument that originated in Africa and is better known for soundtracking capoeira, the Brazilian martial art.
“When we got Djum Djum in the studio and played him the backing track, he just went off on this mad rap in this language that was just off the top of his head. We’ve been told that it’s some rare African dialect, but it isn’t,” the group’s Neil Barnes explained. ”It’s gibberish! Djum Djum talk.”
Cole also worked with the group on early Leftfield track Different.
Adverts at the time of release noted that The Afro-Left EP would only be available for two weeks only, and would be deleted on 7 August – which turned out not to be the case – and the single release included three different versions of the track, Afro-Ride, Afro-Sol and Afro-Central, showcasing the group’s versatility.
The lead track Afro-Ride, takes Afro-Left’s pounding tribal rhythms and adds some epic hypnotic acid tweaking, as Barnes and compatriot Paul Daley aim for the stratosphere.
Retro video game enthusiasts might also recognise the track from 1995 game wipEout, an early release on the newly launched PlayStation.