Yannis Philippakis unveils a new creative project

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In one of the most intriguing collaborations of recent times, Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis has teamed up with the late great drummer Tony Allen (best known for his work with Fela Kuti) for the ‘Lagos Paris London’ EP which will be released on August 30th via Transgressive Records.

Credited to Yannis & The Yaw, featuring Tony Allen, the EP is launched alongside its lead track ‘Walk Through Fire’ which has just been premiered as Jack Saunders’ Hottest Record on Radio 1.

Yannis & The Yaw is definitively not the start of a solo career: the “yaw” of the name references the nature of a project that emerged entirely organically during a specific period of time; a distinct musical excursion that Yannis expects will resurface episodically when events, environment and musical collaborators all fall fortuitously into place.

That’s precisely how ‘Lagos Paris London’ emerged. Yannis had been a fan of Tony for years, so when a mutual friend offered Yannis the opportunity to work with Tony in 2016 he took the opportunity to head to Paris. The studio turned out to be exactly how you’d imagine a Fela Kuti session to look like circa 1972: African percussion instruments and analogue equipment at every turn, the glare of wall-to-wall mirrors only glazed by the thick-fog of chain-smoking.

Joined by Tony’s regular collaborators Vincent Taeger (percussion, marimba), Vincent Taurelle (keys) and Ludovic Bruni (bass, guitar), the drummer’s initially “pleasantly dismissive” reception of Yannis evolved into an “undeniable connection through generations, through cultures, through experiences” as their two-day session yielded an EP’s worth of material, which was further developed over a handful of subsequent sessions. But between scheduling conflicts and Covid restrictions, actually completing their ideas proved to be frustratingly elusive. Naturally, when Tony passed away in April 2020 aged 79, Yannis felt compelled to bring the project to fruition.

Yannis comments: “There was an imperative to finish it in a way that I had never felt with another record. There was a deep duty to do it, to finish it as well as possible, and to pay respect to him by getting it out there. Going through some of the drum takes was a moving experience because those recordings were some of the last pieces of music he ever worked on. There’s an eternal quality to these drum tracks, and you feel a continuity of his life and energy through them. He wanted people to hear this, and it’s good to be able to do it for him – but of course it’s slightly bittersweet.”

The lead track, ‘Walk Through Fire’, immediately establishes the project as a bridge between the duo’s two cultures: irresistible funk-fuelled grooves, but with muscular punch, Yannis’s booming baritone and some portentous keys for good measure. Its lyrical imagery – a metropolis in the midst of revolutionary strife – reflects Fela Kuti’s fiery protest songs and draws upon the Parisienne refuse strike of 2016 for inspiration.

The broader EP goes far beyond the traditional Afrobeat style that Yannis had expected to make. Instead it possesses a wealth of pan-African influences both old and new, touches of Foals echoing around the outskirts like distant thunder, while Tony acts as a “percussive conductor at the heart of the tornado.” Above all, it is a celebration of the man who inspired it; a communion with the past that provides an escape in the present day.

As for the near future? Yannis hopes to take the EP’s high-spirited, loose-grooved exuberance to select shows in the UK, France and perhaps beyond. He also plans to return to Yannis & The Yaw in the future for further collaborations with inspiring musicians from across the globe.

‘Lagos Paris London’ is available to pre-order / pre-save here.

LAGOS PARIS LONDON track-list:

1. Walk Through Fire
2. Rain Can’t Reach Us
3. Night Green, Heavy Love
4. Under The Strikes
5. Clementine

FOR MORE INFORMATION – http://yannisandtheyaw.com