Winachi Tribe were guests of Melle Mel, Scorpio and the Sugarhill Gang at Gorilla last night. The show was part of Winachi’s summer 2017 “Room With a Zoo” tour, on which they are joining Mel, Scorpio and the Sugar Hill Gang at sporadic dates on their own “Hip Hop 101 Tour.” There is an undercurrent of mutual respect between the Winachis, Scorpio, Mel and the Gang which became apparent when Liam Croker, Winachi’s frontman, spoke to Sounds briefly before the gig. “I loved hip hop growing up, but I very quickly grew out of gangsta rap. I like social commentary. Melle Mel… he’s the master. Mel was the first to take it away from disco and make it into rap as we know it today. For me, he’s the John Lennon of the greatest rap group ever to walk the earth.”
The pairing of these acts works well; Winachi’s electro funk compliments the Gang’s disco-funky instrumentals, but takes the seventies source material to a deeper, slinkier plane. Originally named China White, the Winachis took their current name when the heroin connotations began to be a problem for booking gigs. With the arrival of percussion ace Inder Goldfinger, formerly of Ian Brown’s band, the Winachi Tribe took a new direction and became the funkier-than-thou, hard-hitting live act they showed themselves to be last night. Inder, an enlightened soul who speaks of music in spiritual terms, explained the turning point. “I brought em to Leeds, thinking it’d be a couple of days or so. We spent weeks there! We recorded two tracks, “Yeah Fool” and “Keep on Livin.” They like keeping things sounding live and I loved that.” Inder’s statements are accompanied by the sort of gesticulations that make you feel you’re talking to some sort of music yogi, and it seems he’s a sort of talisman for the Winachi tribe when they perform.
Last night Inder was irrepressible. As the Tribe hit the irresistible groove of “Yeah Fool,” their second song, he was rolling and tumbling between a percussion setup that included cymbals, tambourines, tablas and conga. The tribe create a dense, percussive sound that benefits from synth samples and 80s drum sounds that come together in a sound that suggests a slightly more streetwise INXS. I consider this to be nothing but a compliment. The band were exceedingly tight and the acoustics at Gorilla provided them with a very bass-heavy sound last night. On record, the songs are radio-friendly and catchy, but live, they are deep and, dare I say it, Tribal.
Liam Croker is a cocksure frontman and his throaty refrains like “We can fuck or we can fight” have an air of danger about them which lifts the bands aura into something verging on threatening. I was convinced by them and so were the crowd. Fourth song “Transition” is something of a mission statement for the tribe, combining all the elements that make their sound their own: Inder’s wired percussion, guitarist Jamie’s spartan funk riffs and Liam’s cocksure vocal delivery. Next song “Keep on Livin” starts with another Inder flourish and some thumping basslines. By the time they close with “Sympathy For The Future,” Gorilla is full and the place is grooving. All ready for The Sugar Hill Gang to come and serve up some Rapper’s Delight. And for Melle Mel to deliver The Message. The Winachi Tribe’s “Room With A Zoo” tour goes on. Catch them if you can..