Apr 13, 2012

From New Zealand: Shogun Orchestra

This album was released in New-Zealand in december 2010. We've been trying to buy it ever since, after hearing a few afro/ethio/highlife/salsa/carribean tracks on the internet. When we learned that German label Jakarta records was properly releasing it this spring, we instantly sent an e-mail asking for a promo copy… and a few days later we were excited like teenagers when our door bell rang for the delivery of a nice vinyl pressing! Shogun Orchestra come from Wellington, New-Zealand, they're a kind of supergroup led by saxophonist Lucien Johnson with members of Fat Freddy's Drop, The Black Seeds, Lord Echo, The Yoots, jazz trio Twinset, and Venezuelan vocalist Jennifer Zea.

Carribean grooves, Afrobeat rhythms, Highlife guitars, Ethio-Jazz twists, Salsa spices… all in one. This is a real slugfest, frantic, steaming and explosive as hell! Favorite tracks include the Ethio Sato San, the irresistible Afro-Salsa of Maman, the deep and entrancing Cigars of the Pharoah, the Spiritual-Cosmic-Ethio Jacmel and the Afrofunk of Bamako. Cherry on the cake, you can download 'Jacmel' and 'Bamako' for free through the Soundcloud links below…


Shogun Orchestra is the latest project from talented composer and multi-instrumentalist Lucien Johnson: that formidable musical force who has spent the last decade living between Wellington and Paris, establishing in the process, a towering reputation as the quintessential "musician's musician".

In this album Lucien Johnson draws upon his impressions of Port Au Prince, Haiti, where - in later 2009 - he spent some months working in a theatre production, and where he had the misfortune to contract malarial fever.

Recuperating in Wellington, Johnson commandeered Wellington's ska extroverts The Yoots and - adding a few supplementary virtuoso soloists - transformed the group into his dynamic ensemble of eclectic world-fusion.

Shogun Orchestra is a vehicle for Johnson's own compositions as well as for the melodies and rhythms he has absorbed in travelling to far-flung lands of East Africa, The Caribbean and the Indian Subcontinent.

Far from being some weighty academic musical synthesis, Shogun Orchestra is an explosive celebration of an album. From the opening salvo of shimmering high-life guitars, the listener is propelled on a wild ride into the steaming equatorial night. The band is entranced, possessed, playing on frantically aboard a carnival caboose festooned with ribbons and lanterns.


There are occasions when something positive comes about as a direct consequence of an event which is generally deemed to be wholly negative, and Shogun Orchestra is a fine example of this. This New Zealand supergroup was assembled by multi-instrumentalist Lucien Johnson to play a charity concert raising money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Gathering musicians from top New Zealand acts such as Fat Freddy's Drop and The Black Seeds, Johnson has composed a set of tunes that take inspiration from his travels in the Caribbean and Africa. You have elements of high life, afro-funk, Ethio-jazz and the calypso sounds of the Caribbean, but Shogun Orchestra is more than a simple world music pastiche.

The journey begins with the summery sounds of Lovana, the lead guitar soaring over the gentle shuffling rhythm section, with the horn section providing some backing. Sheer heaven. Elsewhere the sound of Mulatu Astatke and Ethiopian jazz is prevalent on tunes such as Sato San and Cigars Of The Pharoah, the former an uptempo dance tune while the latter has more of slow, sultry feel to it. Afrobeat rhythms and the psychedelic Afro-funk sound that came out of countries such as Benin and Guinea get a look in on Bamako, Maman and Leogane.

In spite of all the varied influences, the album hangs together very well as a unified set of tunes with the band creating their own distinctive sound and is well worth investigating.



01. Lovana
02. Sato San
03. Bamako
04. Maman M’Voye Peze Café
05. Legba Nan Baye-A
06. Cigars of the Pharoah
07. Jacmel
08. Falko
09. Leogane
10. Minis Azaka (digital exclusive)

No comments:

Post a Comment