Jan 25, 2017
Founded in Minneapolis during the spring of 2012, BMB came together when two guitar players discovered each other's almost identical craigslist ads aimed at starting a funk band influenced by among other things, the sounds of Fela Kuti, K Frimpong, and King Sunny Ade.
Over the next 3 years the band would relentlessly rehearse, fine tune, and develop their deeply powerful sound. What started as a funk band playing obscure covers eventually blossomed into a creative collective of musicians writing, arranging, and performing original music that builds on the sound of Nigerian Afrobeat by tastefully blending it with other styles. As time went on, the band cycled through players and material before arriving at what would become the permanent lineup and their signature sound.
In 2013 Secret Stash Records released BMB’s debut single to critical acclaim within the collector and DJ communities. The bible of all things funky, Wax Poetics, declared the record to be “Heavy Nigerian Madness.” Flea Market Funk raved “This is some authentic music right here people, recorded in the United States. Inspired by the likes of The Funkees, The Black President, and Moussa Doumbia as much as James Brown and The Meters, this Twin Cities dozen (and sometimes more) is shoveling out their musical path with their unique sounds.” The entire pressing quickly sold out as Secret Stash shipped copies around the globe while BMB slang copies from the stage after shows throughout the Midwest.
Two years later, after almost non-stop gigging and rehearsing, BMB finally tracked their debut album at Secret Stash’s new recording studio in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. Cut live in one room over the course of 3 days, the recordings jump out of the speakers with an energy reminiscent of the band’s celebrated live shows. About the process, guitarist Hans Kruger says, “This music needs to be recorded live. Everytime we play there are these little connections that are being made between a couple of the musicians. The bass and drums might lock into something that the horn players don’t consciously know about. But while that’s happening, the horn players might find their way to some new interpretation of their parts. You would lose some of that if you went in and tracked everything one at a time. There needs to be room for collective improvisation.” The incredible thing about recorded music is its ability to travel across time, space, and cultural boundaries. The story of Black Market Brass and their debut album, Cheat And Start A Fight, is a testament to that miraculous feat. Recorded in 2015 by the 12 piece instrumental band, it is heavily inspired by the sounds of West African popular and spiritual music from long ago.
Black Market Brass gives Afrobeat a prairie home
The 10-piece Black Market Brass has become an unlikely go-to summer party band in Minnesota.
Last weekend’s packed First Avenue main-room set and the hipster-thronged Red Stag Block Party in northeast Minneapolis were among their favorite shows so far. However, the most telling performance for the 10 members of Black Market Brass in their unusually busy summer actually might have been last month’s more milquetoast gig at Log Jam in Stillwater.
“Seeing a bunch of teenagers and other Stillwater people getting down to our kind of music was kind of mind-blowing,” guitarist Hans Kruger said, admitting it took the band a few songs to win the crowd over.
Continued baritone sax player Cole Pulice, “Some shows, the people don’t really know what to make of us at first. But they see us having a blast on stage, and I think that tells them we’re all in this together to have a good time.”
The Stillwater story hints at how an instrumental Afrobeat band somehow became a go-to favorite for the summer party scene in Minnesota — a group whose music is based around the psychedelic-sounding, rhythmically complex, relatively obscure jazz/funk/fusion sounds of late Nigerian revolutionary Fela Kuti and the rest of his Afrobeat music movement.
Among the other outdoor fests that Black Market Brass has played this year were the Roots, Rock & Deep Blues Festival, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Art-a-Whirl at Bauhaus and the Coup d’état Block Party. The band has one more next weekend, the Borough Block Party outside Borough restaurant in Minneapolis’ North Loop on Sunday (scheduled set time: 1 p.m.).
Quipped the group’s other guitarist, Mitch Sigurdson, “We just show up to every block party and ask if we’re playing.”
Also the guitarist in the popular soul-rock sextet Black Diet, Sigurdson posted a Craigslist ad three years ago that became the big bang for BMB, asking if any other Twin Cities musicians were interested in forming an Afrobeat-flavored band. “There were DJ nights and radios shows, but you couldn’t really go hear this stuff played live anywhere in town,” he recalled.
How a bunch of white, twenty- and thirty-something rock, jazz and soul musicians in Minnesota got into Afrobeat music in the first place is another surprise worth explaining.
Some of them discovered it through modern Afrobeat acts such as the Antibalas Orchestra and Budos Band. Some were simply vinyl collectors who fell in love with the ’70s-era worldbeat records reissued by Minneapolis label Secret Stash Records, which will also release Black Market Brass’ debut album next spring.
The most well-versed among them was probably percussionist David Tullis, an African studies major at Carleton College who traveled to Nigeria on a fellowship-type excursion to study drumming. He can go on long tangents about the music’s complex polyrhythms and other challenging elements.
“It’s hard for a lot of musicians to find their place in this music because there’s so much going on; everything is right there,” said Tullis, who is also the drummer in Black Diet.
Some of the first rehearsals for the bands were spent simply trying to work out musical charts from Kuti’s music for guideposts. “And then we still had to go through the long process of learning our own style and way of playing it,” Sigurdson remembered.
A true group effort
As scholarly as the band members can get about this music — “We really nerd out a lot in rehearsals,” Kruger admitted — they also make it clear they’re in BMB primarily because it’s fun music to play. Many of the songs in the band’s growing bin of original tunes, including “Snake Oil Man” and “Half a Cig,” follow the same repetitive groove for six minutes or more but pick up steam via the feisty, fiery horn parts.
Pulice, who also performs with vintage soul greats Sonny Knight & the Lakers, said Afrobeat “doesn’t follow a normal western music narrative. It’s not broken up into sections, or into solos, like jazz is.
“Good Afrobeat music is not about individual players. It’s about what we can do together, and finding that sort of magical, hypnotic zone as one unit.”
“Hypnotic” could perhaps be taken as code for the heavy marijuana use associated with Afrobeat and reggae music. The band doesn’t deny that there’s an herbal undercurrent to the music, but Tullis pointed out, “There are several people in the band who don’t touch the stuff, and they do just fine.
“Really, it’s about doing whatever you have to do to get in that uninhibited state where you freely dance to the music and just absorb it fully. Plenty of people can do that stone-cold sober.”
Let’s hope that was true of those teens in Stillwater.
Labels: Black Market Brass
Jan 23, 2017
Guanabana Afrobeat is a musical project formed in mid-2012 with the intention of merging the genre Afrobeat with Latin American rhythms.
Through the polyrhythmia, Guanabana tries to generate its own style, accompanied by melodies and harmonies that shoot particular sounds while taking the genre as a base.
Check out there EPs at soundcloud.com!
Labels: Guanabana Afrobeat Orquesta
Jan 21, 2017
Kárà-Kátà Afrobeat/Highlife, Afrobeat reggae Group music genre can be called world but we blend effortlessly original Afrobeat, Afrobeat Reggae, Soca, Calypso, Afrobeat gospel, Modern funk, Jazz, Blues, Salsa, Psychedelic rock & Soul. Our musical spice is exotic and inspiring. We celebrate and share the beauty of African/Canadian multiculturalism with dance, music, fashion through our live performances. Although the music is African Origin, but we are 90% of different backgrounds and origins and 10% African. We are truly the world beat.
The exciting new Afrobeat group here in Vancouver that goes by the name of Kara-Kata. Like traditional Afrobeat bands, we are composed of a wide range of talented musicians including several percussionists, a vibrant brass section, and guitars and keyboards. We also have a contingent of dancers who can fire up a crowd in seconds! Our shows over the past few months upstairs at The Afrika Shrine, Legion Hall on Commercial Drive have drawn strong and enthusiastic audiences and the word is definitely out that there is FINALLY a band here in Vancouver that can bring the music of Fela Kuti and the spirit of Africa to life on stage! Our music combines elements of funk, highlife, African rhythms, and jazz.
What Fela developed is now recognized as having been exceptionally unique. The sound rides on insistent Yoruba rhythms with funk-influenced organ riffs in the middle topped by repeated chants that link his music to that of traditional Nigeria. (Excerpt from BBC documentary from the 80s)
This is what is behind the spirit of Kara-Kata and what we try to project.
FORGING AHEAD WITH AN AFRICAN VISIONA big bonfire of a band by the name of Kara-Kata is setting Vancouver ablaze with its full-power renditions of classic West African Afrobeat tracks. Afrobeat music blends the genres of funk, jazz, highlife, psychedelic rock, juju, agidigbo and other traditional rhythms into a whirlwind of ecstatic sound. The band is jamming the dancefloor and getting hips swaying to a frenetic tribal pulse. Their recent performances on Commercial Drive in Vancouver have been generating tons of buzz. Once a month they transform the staid Legion Hall into the bedazzled Afrika Shrine where the vibe is festive and traditional Nigerian dishes are served to hungry fans, resulting in a robust community spirit.
Afrobeat music is the kind of thing that “creeps deep into you as you listen to it,” according to the band’s founder, Toyinirawo Kayo-Ajayi (Kayo). Before you know it, your body is already dancing way before your brain considers doing so. There is a certain spirituality in the music as well, based on traditional African rhythms that are not found in Western music. There’s more behind the sound than just “the jiving psychedelic feel” that is normally associated with it. There is a truly magical undertone to the beats and melodies that comprise these songs, a magic the audience definitely picks up on.
The Afrobeat sound originated from Yorubaland in Nigeria. Both Kayo and the godfather of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti, share the same Yoruba background. Growing up, they were both exposed to the same local traditional songs, chants and rhythms performed during celebrations and ceremonies. It is this rich musical history that many, if not all Afrobeat songs are based upon. Kayo’s memory seems to border on prodigious when he proclaims he can literally recall hundreds of traditional songs from his childhood. “There is now this vast library in my head to draw inspiration from,” he remarks.
Kara-Kata’s first self-titled EP released last year is worth listening to for its lively rhythmic tracks although it hardly reflects the remarkably speedy evolution and sophistication of the group’s current bombastic sound. The group has swelled in size to almost 20 members over the last few months. Whereas they were once playing primarily smaller intimate venues and festivals in the area, the venues and crowds are growing in size alongside the group as the outbreak of Afrobeat fever spreads throughout the city.
Kayo has managed to skillfully orchestrate this ‘big family’ and keep the performances incredibly tight without it degenerating into a chaos of noise: “This music is like a meditation, and that’s why we can have such a large group onstage, all of us on the same page, totally connected. It’s not difficult at all actually. When I raise my hand or gesture in a certain manner, they know what’s coming because we are all connected. When I am onstage and people see me caught up in the music, entranced, dancing, totally into it, they cannot help but join in. It instantly connects people.”
Kayo formed Kara-Kata here in Canada in response to what he considered was a shortage of the pure version of this particular sound. “I just want to have fun with it and share my tradition and love of this music with my fellow Canadians,” he notes playfully. When asked what he sees on the horizon for the group, Kayo waxes philosophical. “We’ll end up wherever the universe takes us. We’ve come so far in such a short time, and where we are headed, no one knows, but wherever we find ourselves, I know we will be truly happy.”
Labels: Kárà-Kátà Afrobeat Group