Dec 20, 2011

From Japan: JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra - Mediacracy

JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra are an instrumental band playing music based on Afrobeat. Spiritually influenced by the great Fela Kuti, "JariBu" (which means "Try" in Swahili language) have created their own "Neo Afrobeat" sound, interweaving traditional afrobeat with funk and jazz sounds.

In April 2009, they released their 1st album "Afro Sound System", which was critically acclaimed by many DJs and radio producers. The CDs sold out but the album is still available in digital format. After participating in the "FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL 09" (the biggest and best known festival in Japan) in the summer of that year, they then started to search for ways to expand and develope their afrobeat sound and began recording a new album. A 7" single, "Legend of Yoruba Part 1&2" was released in late 2010, which was very well-received, and this is one of the cuts from the new album "MEDIACRACY" to be released in October 2011.

Over the past couple of years, JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra have established themselves as one of the most exciting live bands on the Tokyo scene. They currently play three to four gigs a month, including their own popular monthly event "Natural Vibes" at "Plug" in Shibuya and are the undisputed leaders of the Japanese afrobeat scene.

JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra



Regular readers of Tokyo Jazz Notes will most probably be familiar with the name JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra by now as I have featured a number of reviews of gigs and releases over couple of years. Through their exciting shows with highly danceable grooves and powerful horn arrangements, this 13-piece outfit have established themselves as one of the most enjoyable live acts to watch on the Tokyo circuit.

We can now welcome the long-awaited release of the band's first fully distributed album, Mediacracy, containing an hour of music including some of the mainstays of live sets over the past year or so. The already phenomenal horn section is expanded on the recordings with guest appearances from Temjin from Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro on trumpet, Hirose Takao (Jazz Collective/Masa Sextet) on trombone and Takao Watanabe (from pikaia/NICE MIDDLE with New Blue Day Horns) also on trumpet, making an even fuller and powerful sound, and Pardon Kimura at the mixing desk keeps the integrity and immediacy of the live shows in the production.

The album opens with the funky guitar hook and percussion of the title track and a typical afrobeat-style voice over with politically inflected verse before the bass and drums kick in with a highly infectious beat layered with a luscious extended key solo. The whole thing is then lifted to another level as the horn riff blasts you away. Sax and trombone solos follow but the dance rhythms never let up for a second. The pace shifts slightly for another vocal section with a sing-a-long backing vocals before the main riff picks up once again for the close. Nine minutes of absolute killer grooves that is real statement of intent and confirmation that JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra mean business.

Suffer Dey is a mid-tempo number with a shuffling beat and despite the title, the main riff together with the trumpet and flute solos and the vocal refrain of "One day, one day" give the whole tune a very positive an uplifting feeling. And this mood carries us straight into Legend Of Yoruba, previously released as a single and already something of a dancefloor classic. Driven by an amazing flute performance, this is afrobeat at its funkiest and a tune that must rank with the best of the best in the new wave of afrobeat bands from different corners of the globe.

From the percussive interlude of Mvua Dance, we then head into Afro Soul Knows, which opens with some very funky wah-wah guitar and the full horn section. As with Fela Kuti's music, the JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra tracks that feature vocals have lyrics that either carry a political message or are a tribute to the herbal muse, and Afro Soul Knows falls into the latter category, though some of the detail is lost behind the sing-a-long backing chorus, and with the focus mainly on the dance rhythms throughout, this doesn't really matter.

It's the bassline that drives Tricky Liars, another live favourite, and eleven minutes of unrelenting high tempo deep afro funk. Over the course of the song you have all of elements of the band's sound coming to the fore, whether its the heavy bass, afrobeat drums and percussion, stabbing horn riffs, funky guitar or call and response vocals, all adding up to a very heady mix.

Meneno Ya Roho is another interlude that signals a shift of pace to N.N.G., something of an epic psychedelic number that moves along to a shuffling drum beat, with Ray Manzarek-style keys leading the way before the horn section refrain comes in after a couple of minutes. The sax solo that starts at around the four minute mark is simply awesome and this portion of the track is deliciously trippy and is somewhat appropriately followed by a vocal section calling for legalisation, before more psych keys for the extended final section. The album closes with Natural Vibes, an uplifting instrumental dance tune that shares its name with the band's monthly event at Plug in Shibuya.

Mediacracy is a strong album all-round that successfully carries the energy and power of their live shows onto disc. Original and deep afrobeat grooves from the heart of Tokyo that will appeal to fans of afrobeat, funk and jazz alike, this album is highly recommended.

MEDIACRACY Sample by JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra


01. Mediacracy
02. Suffer Dey
03. Legend Of Yoruba
04. Mvua Dance
05. Afro Soul Knows
06. Tricky Liars
07. Maneno ya roho
08. N.N.G.
09. Natural Vibes

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