ESG at KOKO
It’s the mid 70s in the South Bronx and, in an effort to keep her children away from the dangerous New York streets, Mrs Scroggins buys some musical instruments. Jump forward a few years and Renee, Marie, Valerie and Deborah Scroggins have formed ESG (Emerald, Sapphire and Gold), released their first album, and are being hailed as the cream of New York’s 80s music scene. Mothers obviously do know best.
Another 30 years later, ESG might have gained a few extra family members, but they definitely haven’t lost the funk. The crowd at London’s KOKO probably weren’t alive in ESG’s heyday, but thanks to a funk and soul resurgence that must have Craig Charles feeling like a musical guru, the venue is fit to burst with an excitable mess of dancing limbs.
The infectious bass of Dance incites the audience to boogie en masse, erupting into cheers at every shimmy and shake from the Scroggins family. The bass might be code red on the contagion scale, but it’s the myriad of percussionists, hitting congas and scraping wooden agogos as they move along to the beat, that take centre stage. Not forgetting Renee’s endlessly soulful vocals.
Classic ESG tunes UFO, The Beat and My Love for You follow, and reach the heights of the funk-o-meter, turning the floor of KOKO into a full-on party. Long instrumentals are broken up with Renee’s incredible range of grunts and screams; it’s no wonder ESG are such a staple of hip-hop sampling.
Established bands often disappoint an excited audience with new material, but ESG’s newest song, Watching, doesn’t fail to delight. The Scroggins haven’t abandoned their winning funk formula, and are obviously still as much in love with the music as ever. Their performance is an unfaltering, energetic riot from start to finish. Renee even stops halfway through to wish a fan happy birthday, and invite her onstage to dance with the band, declaring: “See, we do listen to our fans!”
As with all great parties, the fun has to end sometime, but even a raucous encore of Erase You isn’t enough to satisfy the hyped up crowd, leaving Renee to remind KOKO “the club has curfew!” Let’s just hope there’s more to come. For ESG, funk is just like riding a bike – once you’ve got it, it never leaves you. God bless you, Mrs Scroggins.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information and future events visit ESG’s website here.
Watch the video for Dance here: