Tippi Agogo

reviewed by E.B.Klassen

Well, we’re just back from the Edmonton Fringe Festival - one of the more effective money filters we walk through in the summer. The Edmonton Fringe is huge - a day with less than twenty thousand people is a slow one. But after seeing the Arrogant Worms play a street gig, there wasn’t a whole lot else we wanted to see (at least not with the kids in tow). We wandered though the streets of people sampling all the different foods and chatting to whomever we happened upon. The last couple of days have been cold and rainy, and while we were watching a clown duo, a cold threatening wind blew up. The duo turned the tip early as everyone was starting to leave anyway. We joined the exodus and headed towards the truck. But as we rounded a corner we heard a sound. A strange polyrhythmic noise sculpture. A noise that proved that there is a god, and his name is Tippi Agogo.The last time I saw Tippi was in Victoria at the Fringe. He was performing in Market Square and having a wonderful time. I had first heard him about three weeks earlier at the Edmonton Fringe and bought both his tapes and the T-shirt. He remembered me and we talked about not much in particular. Since then we’ve listened to his last two Morningside interviews and heard about his trip to Europe. But for the last year or two I’d lost track of him.Tippi comes from the future; in particular, the future of Neuromancer. Street musicians from Bill Gibson’s future are all modeled on Tippi. He uses garbage to create the wildest sounds I have ever heard. Tonight it was two shampoo bottles on sticks, a drum made from a cardboard barrel, a pan pipe made from drinking straws, a squeaker from a kid’s toy, and miscellaneous other stuff. There was also a small amp and a couple of mikes and a digital delay.Tippi creates rhythms, loops them with the digital delay, and stacks other rhythms on top, then plays more rhythms overtop of the result. Banging the shampoo bottles on coffee cans creates some of the rhythms, some are created simply with his voice. The result sounds anarchic and wild, but he maintains a consummate control over them. The madness is eminently danceable.The recordings I have (including the two new CDs) don’t have quite the wild abandon that explodes from the live performance. Live, Tippi is a major hit at the Fringe, the Street Performers Festival, and the Children’s Festival. His mother is apparently a professor of musicology at the University of Alberta, and Tippi has formal training in his background. But training does not define his music, it supports it. Tippi draws freely from Eno’s ideas of ambient music, African tribal music, and the pop music of the last thirty years. But these are only influences.Musically, Tippi Agogo remains resolutely himself.

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