Sep 8, 2009

Aphrodesia - Precious Commodity


It's been quite a ride for Aphrodesia since their birth in 2003: a pilgrimage to the legendary Shrine nightclub in Lagos, Nigeria in 2006, a cross-country voter-registration tour in a vegetable oil-powered bus in 2004 and accolades everywhere from National Public Radio to USA Today. Through it all the San Francisco-based 11-piece ensemble has won audiences over with an eclectic, unique sound- a blend of rich, female lead vocals and slamming horn-laden polyrhythmic funk that Global Rhythm Magazine called “a Pan-African mash-up.”

While the members of Aphrodesia are admirers of West African styles like afrobeat and Highlife- enough so that the group spent a month performing and living in Ghana in 2006, in the process journeying through Togo and Benin to Nigeria to perform at the Shrine with Femi Kuti- the group's sound has always included touches of funk, dub, Zimbabwean trance, hip-hop and global pop. The band's third studio album- “Lagos By Bus” released in November of 2007 and packed with songs written during and about their month in Africa- further solidified their diverse sound, with Global Rhythm Magazine calling it "their most patient and incisive effort to date." The new "Precious Commodity"- unquestionably the band's hardest-hitting and most diverse record yet, with the now-trademark thight rhythm section and dual lead vocals of Lara Maykovich and Maya Dorn augmented by squealing guitars and distorted thumb pianos (the latter perhaps a nod to Konono no. 1, whom Aphrodesia shared a bill with in 2008).

Birthed in 2003 in the backyard shack of bassist Ezra Gale, Aphrodesia quickly recorded “Shackrobeat Vol. 1”, a disc heavily influenced by singer Lara Maykovich's experience living in Ghana and Zimbabwe which was picked as a top record of 2003 by the East Bay Express. The following year the politically outspoken group launched the “Just Vote Tour”, a cross-country swing-state voter registration tour undertaken in the group's vegetable oil-powered bus that landed in New York City during the Republican National Convention. The group's second album, “Front Lines”, was recorded soon after and featured the layered lead vocals of Maykovich and Maya Dorn, several bold originals penned by the group and eclectic guest performers ranging from Tom Waits sideman Ralph Carney to former Sierra Club president Adam Werbach. Featured on National Public Radio, the album was also ecstatically reviewed by outlets from Global Rhythm Magazine to the Village Voice.

Meanwhile, the group's reputation as a show-stopping live act continued to spread. With a lineup that includes singers Mayokovich and Dorn, bassist Gale, guitarists David Sartore and Chris Mulhauser, the horns section of Henry Hung, Liz Larson, Mitch Marcus and Sylvain Carton, percussionist Paul Sonnabend and powerhouse drummer Jason Slota, Aphrodesia delivered stunning, high energy sets at the 2004 and 2005 High Sierra Music Festivals, the 2005 Earthdance Festival, the 2005 and 2006 Aspen Jazz Festival, the 2006 and 2007 Harmony Festival and many more. The group's near-constant touring saw them build a fan base all over the U.S., playing venues from San Francisco's Fillmore to New York City's S.O.B.'s, while opening slots for Maceo Parker, Steel Pulse, the String Cheese Incident, the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, Konono no. 1 and several others broadened their reach even further.

Aphrodesia’s music carries with it a strong sense of social justice, and the band’s commitment to social change extends offstage as well. Having headlined numerous benefits for causes ranging from AIDS prevention to Tsunami Relief to anti-Iraq War organizations, the group has also made a point of traveling on alternative fuels like biodiesel and recycled vegetable oil. It may be a small start, but the group believes that its actions, like its music, can have a huge effect.



01. November 5 (Part I)
02. Special Girl
03. Make Up Your Mind
04. Think/Suffer
05. Friday Night
06. Say What
07. Ayala
08. By The Iron
09. Merit Badge
10. Caminando
11. November 5 (Part II)

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