ÌFÉ’s New Single “Umbo (Come Down)” is Sacred Dancehall With Yoruba Soul

Lead Photo: Photo by Laurence Heinz
Photo by Laurence Heinz
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Puerto Rico-based Otura Mun turned a lot of heads earlier this year when his project ÌFÉ swept SoundCloud like a sacred fire. Indeed, the African-American producer, who has worked with some of Puerto Rico’s most respected musical acts (Cultura Profética, Mima), took up the project after a spiritual pilgrimage to Cuba inspired his immersion into Afro-Cuban religions. The resulting hybrid of electronic production and traditional rhythms straddles the thin line between the sacred and profane, where the dance floor is conceived as both a space of spiritual transcendence and social ritual.

Fans of his previous two singles will be happy to know that ÌFÉ’s new single “Umbo (Come Down)” follows a familiar formula. Driven by a spare, reverb-heavy electronic percussion track in 3-2 clave, Mun lays over a minimalist synth melody that buttresses thick vocal harmonies. Over several minutes, “Umbo (Come Down)” plays like a trance-inducing dancehall loop, as the English-language vocal track – twisted through a voice encoder – invokes a nameless deity anchored by the prayer-like repetition of the song’s title.

Around the four-minute mark, a female voice breaks the incantation with an exalted melody borrowed from Yoruba praise songs, and Mun begins to strip away layers of percussion before shifting tempo and diving headfirst into an Afro-Cuban Batá. From there on, “Umbo (Come Down)”’s sacred dimensions become explicit, and the song’s dance-oriented syncopation cedes to two minutes of ecstatic reverie.

ÌFÉ’s own description reads like a sort of mission statement for this liminal space explored in the track: “Part celebration, part adoration, Umbo beckons us into that space between places, where we can let go and be brought to shore.” Now turn up the volume and let the spiritual tide take you home.

ÌFÉ’s full-length debut is set to drop next year.