“Alone, I go faster; together, we go further.” runs the proverb emblazoned on the sleeve of African Time, a work whose slick production is buoyed by an extensive line-up that includes the likes of keyboardist Oli Rockberger and the long underrated Song Jobarteh, the first female professional kora player to come from a West African griot family and a woman finally coming into her own. But while titular singers Gwen Thomas and Tiana Ewane shine on all 11 original determinedly upbeat compositions and the sole cover, a spacious perfectly phrased reinvention of “Yesterday”, it’s the UK-based guitarist and vocalist Femi Temowo, the album’s producer, who dominates. From the eponymous opener, an oh-so-smooth ode to the Mother land, to French and English language tracks called things like “Inner kid” and “Love is the answer”, Temowo’s rich baritone wraps the whole velvet, adding contrast tp Gwen and Tiana’s exquisite harmonies in ways less jazz and, indeed, less traditionally African, than soft rock and soul, despite some sprightly ragtime-style trumpet from Keyon Harold on “I’ll Make It and Soweto Kinch lending deft sax lines to “Letting go”. Cleverly arranged, unabashedly commercial and relentlessly positive, African Time will no doubt separate cynics from optimists. I’m with the latter: right now, exhortations to self-care and love for all are exactly the message we need.

Jane Cornwell