Showing posts with label afrobeat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label afrobeat. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Race and the Bay Area Afrobeat band Albino!

This morning I posted this article on describing a four month lab residency for the Bay Area afrobeat band Albino! to play at the Elbo Room in the Mission. Each month they will team up with a different artist to experiment with the kind of music that might come up out of that partnership. This is month (Friday) they are playing with Liberian-Bay Area DJ Jeremiah.

I'm not gonna lie, when I first heard about this band three years ago, it made my stomach churn a little bit. The idea of an Afrobeat band called Albino! which is comprised of *mostly* white dudes in costume (often African-themed costume and "tribal" face paint) was not really appealing to me at all; especially coming right out of an Ethnomusicology academic program where I thought about race and music consistently for three years. I was even sure that the band was pretty damn good, but it was still disturbing to me.

But then, the more I thought about it, and the more I got to know the Bay Area and its sense of humor and awareness, it seemed less and less of an issue. I mean, in Austin I was in an afropop band where we often didn't even know what we were singing about, let alone if we were singing words that made ANY sense in the original language (we learned covers phonetically). We just liked the music and wanted to recreate it the best we knew how. At least Albino!'s lyrics are in English and write about political and racial issues in their own community (class struggle within Oakland for instance).

The name Albino! and the costumes seem to be merely poking fun at the fact that the musicians are a bunch of white guys, and yeah, "we play African music," so what? There are dozens of afrobeat bands in the US comprised of mostly/all white people (Antibalas, Budos, Nomo, Afrodesia etc), and they're damn damn good bands that I love very much and do all I can to support them. Can I single one out because of a band name and funny outfits? Can I seriously consider this tasteless enough to count them out?

The music is good. The music does not poke fun. I now have one of their live CDs and it's great music.

What do you think; am I trying too hard justify this idea? Can we just laugh at it and dance?

Albino! promo photo

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Budos Band: "Staten Island instrumental afro-soul"

Coming home from chilly and wet Europe next weekend and heading straight over to thaw off with the Budos Band, who is single handedly giving Staten Island a new reputation for funky afro-soul. My only experience with the island was WWF and Jewish deli's. So thank you Budos. See you next weekend.

Friday, January 22, 2010

PBS's new music program "Sound Tracks" explores relevant music around the world

Some of the world’s best music has been created out of great passion and great struggle.

I was listening to Forum on KQED/NPR this morning driving my cat home from the vet and heard about an exciting new show that will air next Monday night at 10pm called "Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders." I didn't get to hear the whole report (a cat in a carrier is not a happy cat), but I am very excited about this show.

Producer Marco Werman and international correspondents Alexis Bloom, Arun Rath and Mirissa Neff have created a show that will take viewers on journeys of discovery from the bayous of Louisiana to the backstreets of Havana, from the nightclubs of Paris to desert music festivals in Mali. They'll interview everyone from Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famers to Bollywood singers, violin virtuosos to bluegrass musicians. It's not just good music they are looking for, but good stories behind the music.


Click here for the "Sound Tracks" official website

Friday, May 22, 2009

BLK JKS and NOMO: take your pick of African rock and afrobeat tonight

If you're in the market for some African grooves tonight, check out BLK JKS from South Africa at the Independent or NOMO from Ann Arbor, Michigan at Bottom of the Hill.

Returning to the United States after a short tour earlier this year BLK JKS (Black Jacks, for those of you, like me, who might be a little slow) has been called the "African TV on the Radio," (who is coincidently playing at the Fox tonight). Judging only from their single "Lakeside" (video below) that's what I thought too. But after seeing them live at the Rickshaw Stop in March, they are way more than that. Add a little prog rock and a jam band vibe and maybe call it: "afro-avant-noise-rock."

NPR has said that their single "Lakeside" "has a drumbeat even Radiohead would be jealous of." I think this might be the way that African music is going, and it's exciting. Read More at Examiner and to watch videos...

Monday, March 16, 2009

The SxSW African Beat: BLK JKS and Nomo

If you're in the market for some African grooves, check out BLK JKS from South Africa and Nomo from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

BLK JKS (Black Jacks) has been called the "African TV on the Radio," and judging from their single "Lakeside" that's what I thought too. But after seeing them live at the Rickshaw stop, they are way more than that, more prog rocky and more jam bandy - "afro avant noise rock" if you will. (I love that way some music critics describe sound...)

It has also been said that "Lakeside" has a drumbeat even Radiohead would be jealous of." If this sounds like your thing, go check them out.

In the middle of their tour of the US and Europe, they will be playing SxSW later this week. Check their myspace page.

Nomo has a special place in my heart. I went to college with a bunch of these kids. I take pride in turning people onto their music. I loved playing the cowbell to their music in my Afropop ensemble in grad school. I heard a track off their most recent album Ghost Rock on KUT earlier today and felt the urge to spread the word.

This is a video I took of Nomo at the 2006 SxSW. The band traditionally descends from the stage and jams on a riff amongst the audience. This is my favorite bit.

Check out their SxSW schedule on their myspace page.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rokia Traore: groovin to the music of the smallest woman in the world

Rokia Traore's guitar is bigger than she is. It's really quite incredible. And what's even crazier is that people always look bigger on stage than they really are! So she must really be tiny.

I saw the Malian singer/songwriter and her 5-part band play as part of the Stanford Lively Arts 2008-2009 season the other night. It was a really beautiful show; she's created a really gorgeous blend of traditional West African griot music with more modern genres.  I really wish I could tell you about her AMAZING band, but the printed program didn't list the names of her musicians. I can't even tell you the name of the neat string instrument one of the guys was was playing, but you can see it at the beginning of the video below.

Rokia didn't speak to much to the audience throughout the show, but she did take the time to explain the meaning of the song "Tounka" and the problem of African emigration.  She said emigration is not the answer to Africa's social and political problems, it is only making things worse.  She was pointing specifically to the mass African immigration to Europe and that is because of Europe colonization that Africa has most of these problems in the first place.  It must be up to Africans to come together to fix the problems, not run away.

Her band laid down the most awesome grooves while Rokia and her backup singer danced.  I loved when Rokia broke into some Fela Kuti during their 15 minute encore (the college students a row back from us freaked out in excitement).  Watch the video below and also this one on Watch some of the other videos on too, this website has some of the most interesting talks and performances like Pilobolus Dance Theater, a Brain Scientist who recalls the experience of having a stroke and an English Knight talking about the importance of Art Education.
Unfortunately, I can't find anything to show you that really captures the energy of Rokia's show, it was way more rockin' that anything I could find on youtube. I've also put a song on the "music I like" section over on the right. 

This is a link to her new album "Tchamantche", including a cool cover of Billie Holliday's "The Man I Love." If you listen to some of the shorter samples, you can get an idea of her higher energy tunes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Visitor: wonderful bittersweet musical movie

A quick blog from Sydney...

On the 15 hour plane ride down to Sydney, Australia I watched The Visitor on Quantas' movie on demand. This movie is so sweet and sad, but so joyous at the same time.

It's about a ecnomic professor (the Dad from 6 Feet Under and gym manager in the Coen brothers new movie "Burn After Reading) that has lost all vibrancy in his life until he befriends illegal immigrants Tarek and Zainab, a Syrian percussionist and his Sengali girlfriend who bring a new music into his life.

There is mention of Mozart, Fela Kuti, the African djembe, the Chinese erhu, drum circles in Washington Square in NYC and specific African rhythms.

This is a wonderful movie. Please check it out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Antibalas and the Treasure Island Festival

Brooklyn based Antibalas served as my introduction to afrobeat and its Nigerian creator Fela Kuti. I've seen Antibalas perform at least six times since 2003 and they continue to be one of the best live shows around.  

I like to dance, but not just to anything, it takes a special kind of groove to get me going.  With a four/five piece horn section and three person percussion section, these guys do not disappoint.  

Today Antibalas played an afternoon set at the Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco.  For those that do not know the Bay Area, Treasure Island is located in the Bay between San Francisco and Oakland, and the views are postcard worthy.

The highlight of todays show was the fiercely political song "Indictment."  Stuart Bogie, took the lead vocal as well as giving musical cues with the energy of one possessed.  Watching him during this number is pure entertainment. 

What I really love about Antibalas, and afrobeat in general, is the radical politics that automatically come with the music.  Due to the political life and times of Fela Kuti, afrobeat is aggressively anti-authoritative and populist by definition.  And in light of the Bush administration, Antibalas' message is loudly heard.  The song "Indictment" is not only an awesomely composed and executed afrobeat song, it is politically very specific.  No one in attendance will miss its meaning.  

At the Treasure Island Music Festival, the crowd was totally into the song even before the vocals started, but when Stuart Bogie screamed "Condoleezza Rice!  Indictment!" The crowd went nuts, almost taking them by surprise at its forcefulness.  He continued to list "George W. Bush!  Indictment!  Donald Rumsfield! Indictment!  Order in the court!"  But my favorite  of the day?  "Bill O-Reilly! Indictment!"  I would love Steven Colbert to get ahold of that one.  

Watch this short clip from the Langerado Music Festival in Miami of the same song.  If I can find a good clip of today's performance on youtube, I will add it.  Check out their myspace page as well as the track called "Takatif" that's in my playlist over there to the right.  I've also added "Indictment" to the playlist for now.

Antibalas is now playing in Fela! A New Musical about the life of Fela Anikulapo Kuti until October 5th off Broadway in New York City. I've heard it's very, very good.