Two Man Ting is a good name for an Afro-pop duo, especially since Jon Lewis and Jah-Man Aggrey use multi-tracking and looping technology to sound like far more than two musicians. There is a quirky, static, minimalism to their sampled layers of percussion and guitars that places them firmly in the digital age.
On the opener “Jomp En Tonorbur” and the title-track “Ar Lek U,” the English guitarist Jon Lewis draws heavily on the cheerful palm-wine high-life styles of Jah-Man Aggrey’s homeland Sierra Leone. Besides laying down the basic beats, Aggrey delivers simple vocals in Krio and English that range from brash, throaty exhortations to dance and “shake body,” to sweet, simple lover talk. His vocal style adds to the quirkiness of this EP.
A high-point of eccentricity is the reggae tune “Righteous Man,” which returns repeatedly to a call-and-response between the two men, “Hey Jah-Man’ ‘Say what?’ ‘Hey Jah-Man!’ ‘Say what?!’ ‘Hey Jah-Man!’ ‘Say what do you want?!’” The oddness of using this exchange as a chorus somehow augments the ambiguity of verses that alternately celebrate ‘righteous’ Rastafarians and progressive chiefs and leaders from Sierra Leone while questioning the righteousness of famed English abolitionists and politicians.
The EP ends with a lush, entrancing instrumental track, “Badger Shoes 13,” which features Lewis’ guitar work, supported by Aggrey on atmospheric bells and a bass lamellophone (thumb piano), sometimes called a marímbula or calimba in the Caribbean.
“Ar Lek U” leaves us with good feeling, wanting to hear more and hoping Two Man Ting will continue to deliver these simple, odd, joyful tunes.