Sep 5, 2009

The Afromotive - Scare Tactics


Based in Asheville, NC, Afromotive is helping to start a new wave of uptempo afrobeat music- fusing West African rhythms, song forms, and instrumentation with funk, improvisation, and straight-ahead dance beats.

Adding to the experience is thirty-third generation djembe player Adama Dembele from Cote d‘Ivoire. He has toured several continents, performing with various major acts such Oumou Sangare, Salif Keita, Affou Keita, Sogona Djata and many others. These traditional West African rhythms combined with a mentality that moves beyond pure traditionalism and into new realms of musical possibilities is what Afromotive brings to its audiences. It's a sound that crosses musical and ethnic boundaries.

On their debut album "Scare Tactics," The Afromotive takes the raw energy of their live performance into the studio. This album is an elaboration on the language of afrobeat music, yielding a truly unique sound that is rooted in tradition.




Afromotive, a fusion of West African and funk musical elements, will bring its beats downtown.

It certainly isn't the '70s anymore, but Afromotive will return to State College with its innovative music that originated in that era for listeners to judge for themselves.

Even though the band is influenced by West African percussive elements and American funk, Afromotive's afrobeat music in no way labels it as a throwback band.

In fact, Afromotive, which will perform this weekend, doesn't sound like any other 'afrobands' out there, bassist and percussionist Ryan Reardon said.

"Our appeal comes from the fact no one is playing like we do," he said.

The band also provides exciting music to "dive into," Reardon said, because it is fun to listen to and dance with a strong rhythm and groove.

"There is no separation," he said. "If the music is playing, you're dancing. It's one in the same. We bring a dance show."

The way Afromotive interweaves traditional African elements and James Brown-style funk with the band's own spin is what gives the music a certain uniqueness even within the afrobeat genre, and this same uniqueness is what Reardon described as being a "driving force" behind the band.

He added that many songs start with a simple idea that focuses on inspiring both the band and its audience. The band has recently released a new single called "Simbo," which is available to download for free on the band's Web site. Reardon said it is an "outdoor, sunny summer afternoon" kind of tune that draws greatly from the band's African influence.

Reardon finds inspiration from all different aspects of life. He said he can go into his backyard and listen to sounds of animals and bugs and he also draws from seeing people enjoy the band's music during a live show.

Ryan Knowles, saxophone player for Afromotive, said the most inspiring thing about the band's music from an artist's perspective is how "in the moment" Afromotive's songs and live performances turn out to be. In his song writing and his performances, Knowles said he sometimes doesn't really know what he's doing or what he's thinking about.

"I'll write a song, and it'll take a couple of years for me to have an understanding of where it comes from and what I was doing at the time," he said.

The band doesn't consciously pull from any sort of style, Knowles added, but the members will always just run with any inspiration or idea that crops up.

"Any kind of music I do, I always want to just express myself and represent where I am in my life," he said. "I think we do that."

Although he is not conscious of many influences, Knowles said the afrobeat style is where the band subconsciously draws from because there are Africans in the group. He said the band really displays both African and American elements equally, but that this fact does not constitute Afromotive's music as world music.

"What makes us world music is an awareness of the universe and everything that's going on in the world," Knowles said.

Adama Dembele, a 33rd generation djembe player from Cote d'Ivoire, is a current band member that lends greatly to Afromotive's strong ethnic background.

Knowles said Afromotive also previously had an African lead singer, but since the former singer moved back to his homeland, the band has "scaled down."

Afromotive currently has no lead singer, and instead vocals are shared between band members.

Knowles said the band also used to have a full horn section that served as back-up instrumentation to vocals, but the fact that horns are representative of afrobeat music didn't inhibit the band from ditching the section to help move the group into a new direction.

"We're trying to hone in on what the core sound is," Knowles said.

The scaleback has made Afromotive more of an instrumental band, but Knowles said the band doesn't need the extra musicians and a big sound to make great music.

"I'm always trying to change things up and throw wild cards in there and have fun with the music," Knowles said.

He added that the lineup of musicians currently in the band -- which changes sporadically -- is focused on the craft full-time instead of having major distractions like families and jobs, which takes nothing away from the band's rehearsal time.

"I was sick of playing with musicians that weren't full time," Knowles said. "We needed musicians that really take it seriously."

Even though Afromotive has gone through about 40 different musicians to find the rotation the band tours with today, Knowles said that most bands go through this sort of phase, and it was cool for him to see the evolution of Afromotive as a whole.

Reardon said the music stayed "cohesive" throughout the many member switches because the band has a core group of songs that hasn't changed. He added that different musicians coming in with their own personalities brought different approaches to the sound of the band, helping keep the music "fresh."

"We gave the musicians the freedom to do what they want to because that's where the music really takes hold," Reardon said. "You need to have a little bit of faith in them and trust their abilities."

Knowles said different musicians coming in and out was a lot to keep up with at times, but it was also exciting for him because he likes "flying by the seat of his pants."

"I like driving at night with sunglasses on and the headlights off," he said jokingly. "That's how I live my life. That's what I think makes for good music."

Although Knowles takes an impulsive approach to his life and his music, he said it also takes a great amount of precision to play the type of music Afromotive does. He said that upon hearing the band, it's usually hard to predict what will happen from song to song, and that the music kind of "smacks you in the face."

"It's like a rollercoaster ride," he said. "We want people all over the world to be able to grab onto it and enjoy it."

He added the music does not speak to any particular demographic, and that anyone who hears it should be able to relate to it.

People from all walks of life are fans of Afromotive, and Knowles said he's seen both the young and the old dancing to the band's rhythm.

"If you're playing music that makes people want to dance, they're gonna dance," he said.

Reardon said the band's live show usually consists of the band playing "fast and hard" and encouraging the crowd to clap and sing along. He added the band had a lot of fun when they last played State College in May, and hopes Afromotive will have the same luck this weekend.

"When we bring a show, we want everyone to be with us in the same place and the same frame of mind," he said.

Knowles said it's become evident that young girls in college will dance to the band's music, and pretty much anything else that "makes you move."

"And as long as the girls are dancing, the guys are dancing too," he said.

By Beth Ann Downey (Source)

Afrobeat Music - Rooted in West African Rhythms

Rhythm is considered to be the backbone of musical composition. It is a symbol of strength and power, a reliable constant. Since its creation, rhythm has been used predominantly in music as a communication tool. African tribes used djembes, congas and other tribal drums during healing ceremonies, ancestor worship, rites of passage, and warrior rituals as an auditory statement of remorse, celebration or warning.

Out of Africa’s rhythm-filled tradition, rose a tribal-based blend of funk and jazz called Afrobeat. The Afrobeat movement, started by Fela Kuti, was a mixture of African dance beats with contemporary American Jazz. Kuti, the strength and rhythm of the movement, stood as an inspiration to The Afromotive in their search for their original sound.

These Asheville-based groundbreakers have merged traditional West African beats with American funk to form an upbeat fusion of dance music. Unlike Kuti, their songs are not based on a political movement.

“Our take on afrobeat music is still rooted in West African rhythms. Compared to traditional afrobeat, we are playing more up-tempo and energized dance music rather than a mid-tempo, hypnotic jazz-influenced style,” Ryan Reardon, bass player and vocalist, said. “For us, it’s more of a social thing. We focus on how people are affected by their government, their surroundings, and the current political climate.”

The band is more of a collaborative effort between six main musicians, but they often have guest musicians travel and record with them. What use to be a nine-member band dissolved over the years to make the group more compact for traveling purposes.

“It’s going to give us the opportunity to tour more this year and, in turn, reach more people,” Reardon said. “It’s a lot more feasible to make the band smaller, both for sustainability on the road and overall organization.”

Members of the band include Reardon; Ryan Knowles, saxophone and vocals; Tyler Cates, guitar; Brian Jones, drums; Sean Smith on trumpet; and Adama Dembele on djembes, timbales, congas and vocals.

Kevin Meyame, former vocalist and djembes player, decided to leave the band and move back to his hometown in West Africa. Dembele, who is also from the Ivory Coast of West Africa, recently became his replacement. Dembele comes from thirty-three generations of djembes players.

“He knows the djembes; he lives that; he is that djembes rhythm,” Reardon said.

And the band brings more rhythm on stage than James Brown and the J.B.’s. Getting people on their feet is the heart and mission of their music. Reardon explained that watching people dance is an inspiration and encouragement to them because it’s their motivation.

“It’s inspiring to watch the relationship between each instrument and the relationship between the music and the dance,” he said.

What started out as a traditional Afrobeat band has evolved, over four years, into a prevailing force breaking away from Kuti’s jazz-afrobeat coalition. With this breakaway, they have created a highly energetic sound that injects zeal and zest into the audience’s blood stream, rendering them incapable of standing still.

“In the beginning, we started out really diving into the traditional Afrobeat style. We learned a lot from restricting ourselves to that certain style, but now we are developing our own way to play this music and make it our own, while still staying true to the original inspiration-African rhythms and making people dance,” Reardon said.

Other influences besides Kuti include Joe Zawinul, keyboardist for the seventies fusion band, The Weather Report and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Prince.

“Dance, music, sex, romance, how can you not love Prince,” he said.

These artists have guided the Afromotive in their quest to find their distinctive sound, which is now moving towards an upbeat funkadelic sound.

Their nine-track album, Scare Tactics, stands as their milestone of transformation. Sticking to the original style of Kuti, this album represents the Afromotive’s old sound . However, Reardon said they hope to have a new EP coming out in the near future.

“There’s a lot of new music that we have been working on lately,” he said. “I think now we have progressed and opened up even more. There’s more breathing room in this album and it is more dance-friendly. We will have more upbeat and less dark and serious tracks than the first album.”

by Tiffany Allison (Source)


01. Yako 9:49
02. Scare Tactics 7:09
03. One Way Go 8:18
04. Lies 8:27
05. Blinded 8:02
06. Blinded Pt II 2:11
07. Red E Yo 6:15
08. On The Cuff 4:36
09. Doni Doni 2:11

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