Aug 30, 2010

German Afrobeat: The Boogoos

Blue eyed afro soul

This thirteen piece afro-funk combo let loose with a raw blend of poly-rhythm and colourful harmony. Their sound is traditionally rooted, with respect and admiration, in afrobeat, north american funk, soul and jazz music of the 1960's and 70's. The musicians hand-picked from the forests, mountains and valleys of bavaria, weave disciplined drumming earthy congas, thumping percussion, driving bass hooks, rhythmic guitar patterns caressed ivory and ebonies with five bombastic horn players and two juxtaposed, yet complementary singers to brew up a strong full-bodied vibe.

From their myspace page!

Up to right now they published two 45s:

1. Theme De YoYo / The Journey (Ghana '74)

"Theme de Yoyo", the masterpiece by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, gets a soulful funk treatment, transforming it into an instant dancefloor filler. The vocals by singer July stand out as a very intense performance, that builds up to an explosive climax.

"The Journey (Ghana ‘74)" is a nine minute afrobeat bomb and a Boogoos original composition. It is fueled by the extensive instrumentation and the driving bassline, as well as the colourful horns and solowork by baritone and flute. Crowned by singer Zsolt's unique vocals, you can get an impression of how the band sounds live on stage…


2. Bubbles pt.1/ pt.2

singer zsolt tokaij wrote this heavy grooving and also beautiful song called "bubbles".
the original studio take lasts for more than 7 minutes, so we had to cut it for the 45 rpm release into two parts. listen to the strong horn-lines of the five (!) horn-players, the tight rhythm section and the amazing vocals of zsolt in part one.
part two kicks off with an amazing breakbeat intro, exposing the skills of the percussion players, until it comes to the grand finale.

djs will love it, especially the b-side with that monster drum/percussion break half through the song, just perfect for the dancefloor!

if you dig antibalas or the timmion crew out of finland, you will be pleased with this release. definitely a very exciting mixture of styles which has the world not seen yet.


A concert flyer:

Aug 26, 2010

The Story of Bembeya Jazz National

Afropop Worldwide's program, "The Story of Bembeya Jazz," packs a lot of history--musical and political--into a single hour. But of course, there's lot's more to say about this, one of the most significant bands in West Africa's modern history. This feature provides links to three of the background interviews we relied on in making this program. First is Sekou "Bembeya" Diabate, the band's star guitarist and defining personality. Then comes vocalist Salifou Kaba, who joined Bembeya in 1963. Finally, Eric Charry is the author of Mande Music (University of Chicago Press, 2000), the most extensive available English-language text on the music of the Mande people. The book contains lots of background on guitar bands like Bembeya Jazz, and this interview focuses particularly on Guinea and the political environment in which the band thrived, a subject that neither Sekou nor Salifou was particularly keen to discuss.

Another important informant for this program is Leo Sarkisian, now a legendary Voice of America host, programmer, and cultural ambassador. In the late 1950s, Leo was recruited by an Hollywood record label called Tempo International to travel and record music in far-flung locations. His work begun in Afghanistan, but soon, as African countries began to achieve independence, Tempo moved Leo to West Africa where he began his work in Ghana. In 1959, he moved to Guinea, now under the presidency of the young Sekou Toure. Leo wound up making the very first recording of what would become Bembeya Jazz. Here, in Leo's own words, is how it happened.

My boss said, "Okay, I've made arrangements with the Guinea government for you to go there." So we drove, my wife and I. From Ghana, we went up into Upper Volta, went over into the southern part of Mali and went in through Kankan, the back door. We got to the border. They looked at my passport and said, "This visa's no good." I said, "What do you mean?" Anyhow we went through this. So they said, "You'll have to go on to Conakry and let's see what the government is going to do." So they put a soldier in our jeep and we traveled together down all the way to Conakry. We went to the Defense Ministry, which was in charge of security at that time, and the Minister of Defense and Security was Fodeba Keita, who started that first Ballet Africain that came to the United States.

So he said, "I don't know where your company got the idea that you could come over here and start recording our music." You know, he still had that nationalistic feeling: "This is our music and these foreign companies are coming and exploiting into Africa." To their minds, it was like the old French companies and the British who would go down and make recordings for sale commercially. So they still had this distrust of foreigners. But we made friends. He said, "Let me extend your visa. At least you can visit our country while you're here and you can listen to some of our music. But I don't think you can stay here and record." So I said, "Okay." So I came into town and I got a little apartment. I just went ahead and rented an apartment. And I looked around, and there was a little office right next to the Swiss Embassy, right downtown, that was empty. And the French landlord from my apartment said, "You know, that place is empty. It doesn't cost very much. We can get you that at a low price and you can keep all your equipment there." So I rented this office, and set up all my equipment. I put on my Ghanain tapes and started editing them, just going there every day.

About three weeks later, a man showed up. He said, "I'm from the Ministry of Information, Mr Diop." He sent his car and said he would like to talk to me. This was the head of broadcasting, Alasane Diop, who later on, they killed. But anyhow, heck of a nice guy. He himself was an engineer, and he said, "I'm happy that you're here. We are now ready to work together." You see, they watched me for these three weeks and saw what I was doing. And there was a need for me, because the French had left Radio Conakry with nothing. There was only one other technician who spoke very little English--a couple of words. They had two broken-down Ampexes. That's all they had.

So first, I helped get the two Ampexes going, and they started putting some programs on the air. And then the minister said, "You know, in the mornings; you can come early, because in the morning, I have all my staff gather." This was their morning staff meeting with the Radio Director, the Program Director and all his information people. I'd go there and sit next to him and watch them do all their staff meeting every day. And they took a liking to me.

Then the minister said, "You know, we have never really done a collection. There are places that we really haven't recorded any music at all. I'm going to assign my best technician." And then he says, "There's an old man here who is a father of griots, the famous Diabate--Sidiki Diabate. He's going to be with you all the time. He knows all the musicians. He used to be a government official in most of the regions. Sidiki Diabate was the father of Papa Diabate, the guitar player. And his brother, Sekou "Docteur" Diabate is a guitar player also.

So we started going from region to region making recordings. I recorded the famous Orchestra Beyla. They were just being formed in Beyla. Sekou Diabate was there. Then they called themselves Orchestra Bembeya. But when they were first getting it together, that was in Beyla. Then we went all the way down to Nzerekore and did a lot of folk and traditional music there, and we went up in Kankan. Anyhow, we recorded all these various ivory tusk horn groups, Kisidugu, little guitar groups and all that.

And Sekou Toure took a big interest in this. And of course, after our first trip, Diabate took me and he says, "Sekou Toure is very much interested in what we're doing and he wants to help." So he gave his little plane, his aeroplane, private plane. He said, "Any time you want to go to a region, my plane is there." With a Russian pilot. Again, at that time, the Russians were actually in charge. I mean, they were running everything. But Sekou Toure used to tell me personally. "You know," he said, "It's only the American press that calls me a communist. I'm not. I'm an Africanist." And he wouldn't let the Russians go into the radio station. That was a no-no for them. He made sure. And he let me. And the Russians were going crazy again. Unbelievable, you know. Here's this American over there going traveling around in the interior of the country and everything. So I was having a ball.

And Kandia Kouyate was the lead singer, and we helped to form the first National Folkloric Orchestra. We worked together. I started teaching the singers and the musicians what microphones were all about and how to use them, where to stand and all that. And we got a couple of more technicians and showed them how to set up microphones for vocals, where to put the microphones for the instruments and the drums so that we'd get a good sound. And with Diabate, we gave a list of names of the best musicians that we had located throughout the country. Then Sekou Toure would give the order. He would bring those musicians. Wherever we found a good singer or a guitar player, he would bring them in. They got a place to live and clothes. And they had to come every day and rehearse. That was their job. They were getting paid now as musicians for the first time. So Sekou Toure actually did that for the country. But he had a very important mission also. The purpose behind all this, he said, "I want people in this country to think that they are no longer a Fula, or a Mandinka, or a Malinke, or a Sousou---They are all Guinean." He said, "We will do this with the music." And there were all these nationalistic songs. Of course, a lot of them were singing about him."

Leo eventually developed a friendly relationship with Sekou Toure. When Toure tried to stop foreign music from being played on the radio, Leo had the nerve to joke with the president that the VOA would be very happy about this because now everybody would stop listening to Radio Guinea and started listening to the Voice of America. "He just smiled," recalled Leo. He probably knew it was the truth." It was a move Toure couldn't really carry through. The radio stopped playing Western music and all the orchestras began to compose songs on their own folkloric themes. "I remember Bembeya when I went to Beyla, they were practicing a number called Wassoulou, an old Malinke hunter's song. You can feel it. It's real folkloric and yet it was arranged for an orchestra. I like it. I think it was a good move." At the same time, after he left Guinea, Leo saw what happened as Sekou Toure became more and more paranoid and violent. Looking back, he has no illusions about Toure.

He killed my best friend, Fodeba Keita. He threw Alasane Diop into jail. He said that there was a conspiracy building up against him. Now Karim Bangoura, who became minister of Information and Broadcasting after they put Alasane into jail, later became Ambassador to the United States in Washington. Now while he was in Washington, Sekou Toure thought that he was making a conspiracy against to overthrow him. So he was brought back and killed. Then there were a bunch of young intellectuals who had studied in Paris. So after Independence, a lot of these guys were given nice jobs in the government. A number of these also disappeared or were killed. This was the intelligencia. He did away with them.

He was ruthless and he knew that there were conspiracies against him. And he was a womanizer. In fact, you know what I had the nerve to tell him, and he got the biggest kick out of it. When I had my first exhibition, I had about 60 full-sized portraits of Guinean women. [Sexy stuff at that.] When he came to see the exhibit, he said, `My God, they're all women. You're getting all the beauty of the women over here. Why?' I said, `I like women like you do.' My friends from the radio station were standing there. They wouldn't dare say that to him, but they all got the biggest kick out of it. He just smiled. He trusted me so much that every year when he had the big PDG party, I used to go with the technicians and set up all the microphones for him and all the congress. He knew exactly what I was doing there every day. Anyway, while I was still there in Conakry [in 1963, the American ambassador came and he said, "I have a visitor coming who wants to meet you." And a couple of days later, he sent a messenger and said, "The ambassador will be coming here this morning to your home with a visitor." So my wife prepared a little luncheon, and there was a knock on the door. We opened the door, and there, just lighting a cigarette, was Edward R. Murrow.

Murrow was there on behalf of President Kennedy to ask Leo to join Voice of America. Another chapter in Leo's remarkable story was about to begin…


Aug 25, 2010

The Budos Band III - A bunch of reviews


You gotta be careful around snakes. The cobra poised to strike on the cover of The Budos Band III signifies that they are nine bad-asses and they have made a spooky record. But at a recent outdoor performance in Chicago sponsored by the Old Town School of Folk Music, the between-song stage patter about the snake they found in their van nearly sunk the show. Meandering and bereft of punch lines, the un-jokes made you wonder if the backstage consumption of leafy greens had gotten out of hand. Of course, all would have been forgiven if the music had connected, but it took them way too long to settle into their groove, which is a deadly thing when you’re a groove band.

So how come this album, which was recorded live in the studio and whose songs featured prominently at the concert, works so much better? It may sound paradoxical to say so, but good production is the answer. Engineer Bosco Mann’s work here exemplifies the principal that it’s better to capture the sound right than to try to fix it in the mix. Then you can spend the mix getting the balance right, making some sounds stand out and others blend just right.

Such is the case here; this record simply sounds right. It’s hard to deny the sensual pleasures of “Black Venom,” the baritone sax edges just a hair ahead of the rest of the horn section, and the haunted house organ hangs in the background, ready to grab a moment of space and say “gotcha” like your old buddy did halfway through that tour of the haunted house back in eighth grade.

A peek at the Budos website shows that they wanted this to be a doomy record, and also a more self-referential one that sounded more like the Budos Band and not so much like variations on the equation Mulatu Astatke + the Daktaris + Booker T and the MGs. They failed on the latter count; should you play “Nature’s Wrath” and not think Ethiopiques, there’s either a problem with your record collection or with your associative processes. But the tune’s minor key moodiness and the liberal echo placed on the brass sounds eerie enough that it might earn a late night slot in your DJ’s Halloween party mix, so give ‘em a mission accomplished on the spooky count. And for old-time Budos appreciators, there are other tracks, like “Mark of the Unnamed” and “Rite of the Ancients,” where the band mixes up the listening and grooving elements so that they’ll sound as good on the dance-floor as on your hi-fi.

By Bill Meyer

Predictability is underrated. Just about every band we love eventually undergoes a transformation-- sometimes it excites us, sometimes it pisses us off. And when a band covers the same ground repeatedly on their first few albums, sometimes that's a blessing, especially if what they were doing on their debut was invigorating right out the gate. The Budos Band are one of those groups. Their 2005 debut plied a particularly up-front take on retro funk, one that compacted Afrobeat, Latin soul, and James Brown into brief but highly danceable instrumentals. So did their second album. And so does their third. You could throw The Budos Band III in with the band's previous two LPs-- titled, with a convenient uniformity, The Budos Band and The Budos Band II-- and come up with 32 songs that all sound like they could have been cut in the same session.

Fortunately, that theoretical session makes up one of the more ferocious bodies of old-school funk revivalism in the last few years. Maybe it's the stark imagery of their album artwork at play here-- this is their second sleeve in a row featuring a creature name-checked in Five Deadly Venoms-- but the Budos' music often has this undercurrent of cinematic martial artistry to it. They keep everything tight, showing brutal knockout efficiency that thrives on limber call-and-response riffs and unceasing percussive motion. If you're out walking and you throw on a cut like "Unbroken, Unshaven" or "Golden Dunes" you'll find yourself stepping up your pace to meet it. And then you might find yourself wanting to do something with your hands-- attempting to punch through marble, for instance, or carrying 50-pound jugs of water up six flights of stairs. This is a band so tight and in tune that they've basically become this telepathically-communicating instrumental hydra that ambushes you into moving your body on its terms.

It's a fine balance between playing to your strengths and recklessly charging ahead on familiar instinct. A couple of tracks wind up sounding like vague rewrites; "Nature's Wrath" in particular has a marked melodic similarity to The Budos Band II highlight "Origin of Man". But other times, they come up with something even more interesting when they go back to their idea well. There was an inside-out twist of the Temptations' "My Girl" on II that turned a breezy love song into a minor-chord skulk that rode on tension, moodiness, and implicit jealously (hence the new title-- "His Girl"). Here, they pull the same stunt with "Reppirt Yad" (read it backwards), though turning circa-1965 Beatles into weaselly, blade-flashing kingpin theme.


Brooklyn’s Daptone Records usually signs acts that mine American funk of the mid-’60s to early ’70s, but Staten Island 10-piece The Budos Band steeps itself far more in ’70s African funk-rock. On The Budos Band III, Jared Tankel’s baritone sax and Andrew Greene’s trumpet (along with guests Dave Guy on trumpet and Daisy Sugarman on flute) frequently adopt the smoky tonality of the grooves found on Buda Musique’s Éthiopiques compilations, dominating cuts like “Raja Haje” and “Budos Dirge.” (The latter’s title belies its dramatic forward motion and cutting brass.) Budos doesn’t skimp on percussion, either: There are four cowbell-conga-etc. players alongside trap drummer Brian Profilio, and together, they add extra layers to a sound already thick with horns and rollicking roller-rink organ, which sets the scene on “The River Serpentine” and “Crimson Skies.” Whoever has the spotlight at any given point, III is The Budos Band’s most confident-sounding album, like a soundtrack to a Shaft In Africa if it were actually made in Africa.


The Budos Band are an entirely instrumental group fluctuating between ten and thirteen members on any given day. But onstage, at least, baritone sax player Jared Tankel plays the de facto frontman by frequently addressing the audience in between songs. And homeboy drops F-bombs to such excess (e.g. “our new fucking record has a big motherfucking cobra on it!”) that one gets the impression that he’s either a) purposely performing a send up of unbridled rock and roll machismo, or b) just really, really stoked to be a member of the Budos Band.

The latter seems more likely, if only because the brothers Budos are on a serious roll right now. They’ve just released their third and most confident album to date, and might even be threatening to eclipse Sharon Jones & the Dapkings as Daptone’s most reliable go-to for retro soul awesomeness. (The two bands share members; it’s a friendly competition). The safest description of their self-categorized “Afro-soul” is to call them the soundtrack to a blaxploitation film crossed with Fela’s brand of Afro-beat—and there is nothing wrong with that. Both of these things are universally accepted as awesome, and the Budos Band are wise not to mess with the winning formula that drove the previous two (excellent) albums: oodles of Latin percussion driven by fiendish bass lines and a tremendously tight horn section. They don’t attempt to add vocals or electronics, and their beards are not worn in the name of throwback Americana. They are very aware of their strengths, and play to them.

To their credit, they also don’t make you wait for the goods. After a vaguely Steve Miller Band-ish blast of farfisa organ, “Rite of the Ancients” immediately deposits the listener into the thick of a high speed car chase through ghetto streets, driven by a fiercely pulsating guitar line and lead trumpet melody that will lodge in your skull for weeks. “Black Venom” maintains this intensity via an ominous, four note descending bass motif that runs throughout the song, and a phenomenal opening trifecta is rounded out by “River Serpentine.” This one is less cop-movie and more soul ballad, akin to the soundtrack from the original Rocky, or like something from comparatively mellow Daptone label mates Menahan Street Band.

The majority of Budos Band songs keep to a time-honored formula: a solitary guitar line kicks things off, followed by the percussion section, and then the horns carry the melody and proceed to level everything within a city block. But both the tempos and levels of spookiness are varied enough to keep things interesting, and on “Raja Haje” it even sounds like the guitar and drums are operating in two entirely different time signatures (nice false ending, too). Unlike on Budos Band II(2007), there’s no noticeable drop off in quality between the first and second halves of the album, and III even gives a closing glimpse at the band’s sense of humor on the mysteriously titled “Reppirt Yad,” a very stoned cover that sounds like it was unearthed from the ganja-charred remains of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark Studio.

Like every act on their parent label, the Budos Band aren’t so much breaking new ground as simply playing the hell out of their chosen genre. They know they’re at the top of their game, and have no qualms about flaunting it. They’ve rapidly become the standard bearers for the funkiest of instrumental soul, and III suggests they could keep doing this thing for several albums before it even begins to approach boring. We should all be as similarly stoked.


Holy afro-soul-pysch-funk! Or, something like that. Staten Island’s resident afro-beat funksters, The Budos Band, have returned for their third full-length installment, appropriately titled The Budos Band III. It’s rather difficult to classify the brand of music that The Budos Band creates, as the ten-plus musicians foray into nearly every musical territory possible. Although the music is sprawling, it is nonetheless fascinating in every sense – relentlessly begging its listeners’ ears for more attention.

One thing is for sure. As anyone who has followed the career of The Budos Band will know, this group loves its horns, especially trumpets, and this album is no exception. It may be said that the true root of this music lies in its rhythms (punching basslines and crafty drum sequences that openly invite world influences), however the music here is actually driven by the melodies from the horn section.

The reliance on horns is quite bold, and it also acts as a gift and a curse. Upon first listen, the not-so-subtle melodies make the music at once catchy and memorable. It wouldn’t be a stretch to find yourself humming one of the 11 tunes somewhere away from the record. However, the insistence on blaring horns also poses limitations. At times the horns become such the forefront of the music that the deeper percussive sequences – which are at times astonishingly brilliant – may be lost without detailed listening. The Budos Band is at its best when it finds a healthy balance between its melodies and percussive instruments, or even when it substitutes trumpets for a saxophone, which lends a jazzier feel to the music (see: “Unbroken, Unshaven”).

Despite its short playtime (38 minutes), The Budos Band III, fulfills most of the listeners wants. Keeping the album on the shorter end is a wise choice here, because it ensures that the music does not become trite and redundant, which may be a possibility had it gone much further. That said, The Budos Band III is a remarkably cohesive album, and despite the lack of surprises, it’s one tremendously enjoyable listen.


After two well-received full-lengths and an EP, Staten Island's Budos Band return with III in 2010. The group's first two recordings walked a loose tightrope line between the modern jazzed-up Afro-beat sound of Antibalas and the soulful good-time funk groove of Sugarman 3. It's also true that while they fit the Daptone label's groove-centric aesthetic, III reveals a new direction, offering the view that they are also something other. This 11-song set, recorded in 48 hours, offers a darker, more spacious tinge. Elements of psychedelic, Middle Eastern, and even Latin sounds have entered their mix, without sacrificing their dance party cachet. The opening "Rite of the Ancients," "Black Venom," "Unbroken, Unshaven," and "Mark of the Unnamed" all feel like they could have been instrumental interludes in a '70s blaxploitation flick, but are fully developed harmonic ideas instead of simple vamps. The horn chart on the latter track is a monster, with popping three-way dialogue between baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel, Farfisa organist Mike Deller, and all four percussionists. Also noteworthy is guitarist Thomas Brenneck's reverbed surf sound that introduces the darkly compelling "Nature's Wrath." The horns -- Tankel and two trumpets (tenor man Cochemea Gastelum is absent this time out) -- punch up a minor-key vibe that unwinds around a tense film noir chart and a mariachi melody. Then it gets decorated by Daisy Sugarman's ghostly flute, as the percussionists play around all dimensions of kit man Brian Profilio's breaks; it creates a more spaced-out set of atmospherics without losing the groove -- Deller's organ enters in the final moments as icing on the cake. Other tunes with a more sinister, moodier vibe include "Golden Dunes" and "Budos Dirge," but they too give off plenty of heat and crackling energy. There's a Malian tinge in the Budos' Afro-soul on "Raja Haje," led by Brenneck's guitar. The closer, "Reppirt Yad," is the Beatles' "Day Tripper" given inside-out, upside-down funky treatment in a slower tempo with out atmospherics. "River Serpentine" and "Crimson Skies" are breezier in comparison to the rest and more traditionally Budos, with plenty of butt-shaking WHOMP. This third chapter in the Budos Band's legacy is a giant step forward. That said, for band and listener alike, nothing is lost in this gambit; everything just gets deeper and wider and the payoff is nearly immeasurable.


While the group may not be that creative when it comes to naming their albums (their first record was called Budos Band I, their second was Budos Band II), The Budos Band is quite a bit more adept when it comes to creating killer instrumental grooves. Like on past records, here the ten-piece Staten Island, NY outfit combines elements of Afro-beat and highlife, R&B, ska, and surf-rock into something wholly unique and captivating. Recorded at the Daptone House of Soul studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the album is thickly layered with all the components of the band’s repertoire — multiple drums, horns and guitars, and an underlying whir of synthesizer — coming together to make a sound that’s as distinctive as it is reminiscent of big bands of the past like the JBs, Egypt ’80 and Orchestra Baobab. On songs like “Golden Dunes” and “Mark of the Unnamed,” the funk the band emits is every bit as nuanced as it is soul-kissed, with guitar reverberations melding with bass thumps, Wurlitzer whines, horn punctuations, and an air of intrigue. It’s this last component that perhaps really sets The Budos Band apart, marking them as men of mystery as much as groove curators.


Canadian Afrobeat: Five Alarm Funk - Everything Is Possible


Five Alarm funk is an afro-funk orchestra from Vancouver, BC. The group has four percussionists, 2 guitars, a bass, trumpet, trombone and 2 saxophones that create a terrific blend of funk sound intertwined with afro-beat rhythms. The group has toured all over Canada and played at the Molson Canadian Hockey House after Canada struck gold in hockey at the Vancouver 2010 olympics.

Anything is Possible will be their third studio album release. The band never ceases to be a dance party. In the album you can hear very world inspired rhythm and melodic lines mixed into Western jazz and funk styles. The result is something that appeals to older jazz fans as well as the younger generation. The 11 track album never ceases to amuse as each track is varied a bit in style and influences. The album starts off with Infernal Monologue which begins with a children’s choir and then moves on to some creepy sounding licks that almost sound like heavy rock. The next track is some straight funk which then moves onto an entire album of very fun and diverse tunes that you should totally check out.


Vancouver’s soul supergroup Five Alarm Funk didn’t let a grim and gloomy sky stop them from entertaining an enthusiastic crowd at Yaletown’s David Lam Park Sunday, July 4. During the free performance, which was the second stop on a 60-day summer tour -and managed to serve double duty as both closeout to the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and CD-release show for their 3rd album, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, the spastic 11-piece proved themselves yet again to be one of the most infectious and energetic groups in the city. And the crowd, though initially slow to respond, was soon swept up in the frenzied fusion of afrobeat, disco, rock, and funk that has made the group so popular for the past six years. Soon, everyone in the audience was on their feet and moving; youth, parents, grandparents, children, the eight skilled hula-hoopers who took up residence stage right, and, of course, the peculiar older gentleman in the sweat-suit whose dance-moves seemed to resemble a bizarre sort of hyperspeed tai-chi. For their part, Five Alarm Funk did not disappoint, whether musically, or when it came to their usual style of caffeine-fuelled showmanship, including synchronized, off-the-cuff dance-moves (fist-pumps, leg-kicks, and club-style chest-bumps), Village-people-inspired costumes (The Jock, The Cowboy, The Construction Worker, and, of course, The Hipster) the comedy antics and mid-song costume-changes of percussionists Tom Towers, Justin Kennedy, and Carl Julig, and even -as a final, hurrah, a glitter cannon.

Most tracks featured hailed from ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, though, for diehard fans, several older tracks were played, such as ‘Demons, Begone’, and the heavily-syncopated “United”. But, unquestionably, the highlight of the show was the surf-inspired “Dr. Child”, a guitar-heavy funk orgasm that featured, among other things, an epic, onstage battle between a gorilla and a shark. The stunt, which featured costumed performers enacting all manner of dancelike martial-arts moves on each other, was, according to drummer and spokesman Tayo Branston, more than just a simple stage antic; it was, in fact, the inspiration for the group’s entire 3rd album.

“If you believe that these two could meet under any circumstances,” he said, his voice growling like a preacher on steroids, “then truly, anything is possible, and that means that we can be here with you, and have a funky-ass good time any time we want.”

As the band closed out their nearly 90-minute set with a cheeky, horn-filled rendition of Europe’s classic “The Final Countdown” (to much applause, and including the aforementioned Glitter Cannon), and set the howling crowd to dancing all over again, it became clear that Five Alarm Funk is in no danger of slowing down, and remains capable of and committed to, in Branston’s words, “continuing our mission to bring you the best goddamn time you ever had.”



1. Infernal Monologue
2. Zenith Escalator
3. Titan
4. Demons Be Gone
5. Brother Egypt
6. Payday
7. Cave Of The Gypsy Troll
8. Soft Six
9. Doctor Child
10. Broadway
11. Interlude
12. UK-47
13. Uncle Meatball
14. Face Riot

Aug 6, 2010

Osibisa forward ever - An interview 2010


You know what is tremendous fun to me? Having my wife walk in and say, “You know, The Rock came into my work today and asked me out to lunch. But I told him I was married and that my husband is a lot better looking than him anyway. And by the way, I brought us home Ruth’s Chris steaks for dinner and, instead of getting my nails done after work I stopped by Traders and dug through all the bins to find you this copy of BTO’s ‘Street Action’ on CD.” That’s tremendous fun, right there, when that happens. But you know what else is? It’s when I realize I’m into a whole lot of different really good music and can reach into a bunch of different genres to get my jollies. Such is the fun I had when I found out the new OSIBISA album “Osee Yee” is as good as their old stuff. I was turned on, originally, to African music in general & OSIBISA in particular by my old buddy Andre’, and when he told me the latest one was more than a nod to the past, I was there. Brother let me tell you, he was right. The songs all have that insistent rhythmical structure that just makes you wanna jump out of your seat and git-down and the musicianship is right up there with the best, just like Santana did in back in “the day.” It was after grooving heavily on this, one of my favourite albums of 2009, that I decided to contact sax wizard Teddy Osei and get his take on the band, their past, present and future. Teddy proved to be a man of direct words and spirit, so let’s see how it went.

The interview

I’m going to play dumb here. Because, when it comes to the history of OSIBISA, I guess I really am! Am I correct that you’re originally from Africa and then moved to England? Could you give me a little background on yourself as well as how it all led to the formation of the band. Also, what is the origin of the name OSIBISA?

I’m originally from Ghana / West Africa. And so is Sol Amarfio (drums) and Mac Tontoh (trumpet). I was born in Kumasi (the garden city of Ghana). My interest in music started at an early age in school. In my late teens, I formed a highlife band (Comets). Comets recorded several highlife music hits from 1959 to 1962. Then I went to London, UK. I started working on fusion music with Sol and Mac, mixing highlife, jazz, rock, R&B and we were joined by 3 Caribbean musicians: Spartacus R., Wendell Richardson and Robert Bailey and then added Lasisi Amao (from Nigeria). The origin of the name OSIBISA is from Akan rhythm and a song, a tribe in Ghana… OSIBISABA.

I was turned on to the first 2 OSIBISA albums by a friend of mine and loved not only the songs but also the Santana-esque feel to some of it. Were Carlos & company an influence on you? Maybe you were an influence on them? Who are some of your influences from the past and who do you think is doing interesting music these days?

It’s really magical that SANTANA (US) and OSIBISA (UK) took the world music by storm at the same time. A lot of influences from jazz and rock musos plus the highlife greats.

For whatever reason, probably just my own stupidity (!) I lost track of OSIBISA for quite a long time. So, when I saw “Osee Yee” in the store earlier this year, it was like meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. When I heard the disc, it sounded right in step with those first few albums. How do you see the progression of OSIBISA over the years? Do you feel that “Osee Yee” is a return to an older style, as some have called it?

“Osee Yee” is a continuation of the OSIBISOUNDS and more into world music as it’s originators.

Of it’s 14 tracks, 11 are originals. What can you tell us about the 3 that aren’t? (The 2 traditional pieces you arranged and the George Harrison cover, “My Sweet Lord.”) What made you choose those? What do you think an artist should bring to someone else’s song to make doing their own version worthwhile?

The traditional pieces are arranged as musical styles from Ghana. I have always loved the song “My Sweet Lord,” by George Harrison. As far as a cover goes, an artist should bring his own feel to someone’s music, to make a difference.

The songwriting credits on the originals show participation by many different people in the band besides yourself. How does it work? Is everyone free to contribute and then you pull all the ideas, including your own, together?

Everyone is free to contribute to the song writing. Then, it is all put together.

On of the things I love about OSIBISA is that while there is a wide variety of music, from laid back & melodic to extremely high-energy, there is such an overwhelmingly positive feeling all round. Do you feel that’s important in music? Why?

You really have to feel positive and love the music you are doing. That’s the best way your listener will enjoy the music.

Pick 3 of the originals from “Osee Yee” and tell us something about their lyrical themes. That is, if you don’t mind. I have met some songwriters who don’t like to explain their lyrics.

“Life Time.” You see, time waits for no one. “Osee Yee.” This is the Akan Dialect. It is the jubilation of a successful encounter. “Ayioko.” Well-done, the power and energy of the music to make you think of The Motherland.

I understand you guys have played with a lot of artists like Stevie Wonder and The Stones, to name a few. Who stood out as making the most unique impression musically?

Musically, I would say Stevie Wonder. He is an all-round music-man. He jammed with OSIBISA playing drums at a London college gig in 1970 and on keyboards at FESTAC in Lagos in 1977.

What kind of touring has OSIBISA done recently, in support of “Osee Yee?” Any chance of you guys ever getting to the Baltimore Maryland area? Is there a lot of opportunity for you guys to play in Africa?

In support of “The Best Of” and “Osee Yee,” OSIBISA did a tour of India in late 2009. This year we will start with a launch party of the 2 albums on February 27, 2010 at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and follow-up festivals in Germany. OSIBISA would like to have a show in Baltimore because the last time was in the ‘70’s. There are lots of opportunities for the band to play in Africa. African countries we’ve played in are: Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Gabon, South Africa, Senegal, Liberia and more.

Have you been able to make a living with OSIBISA or do you do other things to supplement your income as well?

My source of income is OSIBISA… live performances, performing, song writing and music publishing (Osibisounds Ltd.)

Big halls and crowds or small, intimate venue? What do you prefer as a performer and why?

For performances, I actually don’t have a preference, big halls or small…just to make the people happy.

What’s next for OSIBISA? Any new recordings on the agenda?

Let’s see how this new one goes. And see what the good Lord brings. OSIBISA FORWARD EVER.

I really love hearing the kind of focused, driven vision a guy like Teddy has for his music and his band that’s been treading the boards and working the studio for this long, having rubbed shoulders with people like Stevie W & The Stones and who is a contemporary of Carlos Santana. Believe me, you need to do yourself a favour and if you’ve never heard OSIBISA, go out tomorrow and buy the new album “Osee Yee,” the new “Best Of” and while you’re at it, the re-issued first 2 albums. Chances are, you’ll fall in love with a whole new genre of music. That’s tremendous fun!


Aug 5, 2010

Segun Bucknor - Who Say I Tire

Information from the label Vampisoul

The most complete compilation to date of this key figure in the history of Nigerian music.

There's no doubt that the brightest star which burned in the Nigerian firmament in the early 70s was Fela Anikupalo Kuti. But for a while Segun Bucknor's Revolution, with its politics, African roots consciousness, dancers and African funk fusion, gave even Fela something to think about. To date, this is the largest compilation of his music from the early 70s to have been released.

Segun was born in 1946 into a well regarded Lagos musical family who were church singers and organists. He started to play box guitar and the piano at nine years old. Two years later, he got to lead his first band, The Hot Spots, and then in 1961 he got the chance to play and record with highlife bandleader Roy Chicago's Rhythm Dandies dance band. But by 1964, highlife was becoming old hat for postindependence Nigerian youth. With three school friends, Segun formed The Hot Four, who played mostly covers of popular pop and rock songs, but in 1965 he left for New York's Columbia University to study liberal arts and ethnomusicology. During his three years in the US, he was totally overpowered by a sonic blast that hadn't reached Nigeria when he left for the US: sweet soul music.

In 1968 he'd completed his studies and returned to Lagos on a mission to bring soul power to Nigeria. Trouble was, he soon found that young Lagos had already succumbed in his absence. The Civil war had sped up the demise of highlife as a popular force, causing a mass exodus of the Igbo highlife bandleaders to Biafra, and juju music had begun to come to prominence in their absence. But then the Sierra Leonean Geraldo Pino and his Heartbeats arrived to turn the Lagos scene on its head with his funky routines and their version of US soul and funk.

The Hot Four reformed as The Soul Assembly, recorded two singles, dressed up in sharp western style suits and even toured in Ghana, then the molten hot hub of happening African Music. But much of the music The Soul Assembly and the other Lagos soul bands were playing were covers of US hits, so when The Soul Assembly disintegrated in 1969, Segun began to develop another musical vision based around his own compositions. He formed Segun Bucknor & The Assembly and headed towards a more organically African expression of soul music. As that African essence evolved, the band became Segun Bucknor & The Revolution. Out went the suits, in came a resplendent vision of bare torsos, cowrie shells, shaved heads and the crowning glory of the non-stop undulations of the trio of dancers, The Sweet Things.

Segun was writing and recording politically aware songs filled with social comment like 'Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow', 'Poor Man No Get Brother', 'Son of January 15th', 'Who Say I Tire' and 'Adebo', featured on this compilation. "Son of January 15th", the 1970 (?) album from which most of these tracks have come, turned out to be Segun's finest hour. His subsequent tunes and lyrics lost their urgency and his popularity waned. By 1975 he had disbanded his Revolution to concentrate on journalism, though you may still be lucky enough to catch him performing, maybe in church or even in the right club in Lagos, where he still lives.



1. Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow
2. Poor Man No Get Brother
3. Dye Dye
4. Only In My Sleep
5. Adanri Sogbasogba
6. Baby Get Your Thing
7. Love And Affection
8. Son Of January 15th
9. La La La (Hard Version) Pt 1
10. Gbmojo
11. Ayinde Ogo
12. Who Say I Tire
13. You Killing Me
14. Adebo
15. La La La (Acoustic Version)
16. That's The Time