Nov 9, 2011

From Japan: Kingdom Afrocks – Fanfare


The members met in September, 2006 and immediately hit the studio for sessions and recordings. Two months after, they performed their first live show and sold out copies of their recordings.

The core of their music lies Afro-beat, followed by jazz, Brazilian and latin beats, name it and such exuberance and energy of their live music caught the hearts of many & the word of mouth spread at the speed of light to music lovers, prestigious labels and event hosts.

The band line up starts with a Senegal returnee "Keiichi Tanaka (Dr) aka Ablaye Ndiaye", "IZPON (Per)" returned from 5 years of percussion training in Cuba, born-and-raised in Brazil is "Leo Nanjo (Ba)", humorous singer song writer "NAOITO (Per&Vo)". This four members drive the beats section, explosive melody produced by "SumiLady (key)", respected score writer from New Orleans "Daisuke Nomoto (Gt)", and finally representing is "Kids Hashimoto (B.Sax)", original dancer "YUSSY (cho/dance)". Eight very unique internatinoal members.

As they established their presence at major events and widely increased recognition in 2007, July became their biggest month as they rocked the crowds on the stage at FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL, an only a beginning to the many great stages that followed: TOKYO JAZZ CIRCUIT'07, U.F.O presents JAZZIN', and Giles Peterson presents WORLDWIDE SHOWCASE 2008.

KA celebrated their long awaited live recording album "LIVE IN AFRO CITY" in June of 2008. In August of the same year, KA shared the stage with the legendary drummer Tony Allen, who lead the Afro-beat scene with Fela Kuti. Sharing the stage with Tony helped KA to be recognaized as the leader of the Afro-beat scene in Japan.

In 2009, they released long waited first studio recording vinyl "ICHIKABACHIKAANO" which is recognized as one of the club hit this year. Now in 2011, they released 1st full studio recording album'FANFARE'.



Wind back three or four years and Kingdom★Afrocks seemed like a band on the verge of a major breakthrough. Having appeared at the Fuji Rock Festival the year before, 2008 saw them enjoying appearances at the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Showcase in Tokyo and various other events and in the summer they secured the support slot for the legendary Tony Allen at a memorable gig at 月見ル君想フ in Aoyama. The band also released their first album, unusually for a debut this was a live album, Live In Afro City, which was testimony to the power of their live shows. After that everything went quiet. There were sporadic live appearances and then the news that the nine-piece outfit had slimmed to a seven-piece, with trumpeter Shinpei Ruike and baritone sax player Gosekki stepping down from full-time activity in the band due to other musical commitments.

Then, just a few weeks ago, there was some new activity on the band's website that had lain fairly dormant for some time, and it was announced that the band's first debut album was going to be released in June. Fanfare has now hit the stores with an iPhone app to help promote it, and the buzz has started once again.

The album opens with the title tune, Fanfare (pronounced "fan-far-ay"), with vocalist Naoito leading the way in a great afrobeat groove complete with a voiceover from the father of afrobeat drumming himself, Tony Allen. This is followed by イチカバチカーノ (Ichikabachikano), a new version of a track released as a vinyl-only single about eighteen months ago. This new version is beefed up with a bigger horn section and regardless of whether you speak Japanese or not, it's hard not find yourself trying to sing along.

Typhoon is a punchy uptempo instrumental where the horn section really steals the show. Quite literally a stormin' tune. The tempo drops with Untitled, which opens with a baritone sax solo with the rhythm section kicking in with a sultry groove. The sax then makes way for a trumpet solo from guest Shinpei Ruike, and in turn he makes way for a spacey keyboard solo from Sumilady. After almost five minutes of instrumental bliss, vocalist Naoito then enters with lyrics asking if people are ready to fight for the life they deserve, which eventually leads into a lengthy coda with a "laaa-la-la-laa-laa-la-la-la-la-la-la" chorus. Long part of the band's live show, this track is a mid-tempo afrobeat classic.

Escucha, with Izpon singing in Spanish is a fine slice of afrobeat meets Latin funk, with a refrain of "Era dios de la musica". Things are well and truly back on an afro tip with Anti-Violence, a feel-good uptempo number that powers along with a great drum and bass line, the horn section leading with a refrain followed by a couple of solos, until they take it down to the just the percussion for the start of the call and response vocals, building up to a powerful crescendo.

Voodoo Grease has a bluesy feel to it, with afro grooves mixing with juju spirits from the deep south to produce a raw and dirty groove. The album then closes with Will To Live, another mid-tempo afrobeat groover with its politicised lyrics imploring the listener to be more pro-active ("Is your mind dead?/Be broad-minded/ Show your will/Show your will to live").

It was a long time coming, but Fanfare is a truly outstanding studio debut that has to be one of the year's essential purchases. Kingdom★Afrocks' new album confirms the view that, along with JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra, Japan has two major players in the latest generation of afrobeat influenced bands.


1. Fanfare
2. イチカバチカーノ
3. Typhoon
4. Untitled
5. Baila y Goza
6. Escucha
7. Anti Violence
8. Voodoo Greace
9. Will to Live

No comments:

Post a Comment