Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Antibalas is Back!

Antibalas wastes no time kicking things off with an infectiously danceable, politically astute, track that leaves no doubt in listeners' minds: Antibalas is back and better than ever.  5 years was a long time to wait for hardcore fans such as myself, but the wait is over, and I dare say it was worth it.  While band-members got involved in a variety of solo projects and collaborations, the music was all-the-while growing and percolating.  Creative juices were flowing.  Getting a band this big together to record and perform is no small task.  When the stars finally aligned, the afrobeat gods smiled once again.

I'll have an in-depth interview with founding member Martin Perna in the coming weeks.  I'll also be catching Antibalas live in Brooklyn on August 18th.  They'll be touring across the US and Canada, so don't waste an opportunity to catch this world-class act live.

Antibalas 2012 Tour Dates:
Fri Aug 10 — San Francisco, CA — Outside Lands
Sat Aug 11 — San Luis Obispo, CA — SLO Brewing Co
Sun Aug 12 — Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up Tavern 
Tue Aug 14 — Los Angeles, CA — The Echoplex 
Wed Aug 15 — Pomona, CA — Fox Theater 
Sat Aug 18 — Brooklyn, NY — Williamsburg Park
Tue Sep 11 — Minneapolis, MN — First Avenue
Wed Sep 12 — Milwaukee, WI — Turner Hall
Thu Sep 13 — Chicago, IL — Lincoln Hall
Fri Sep 14 — Detroit, MI — Majestic Theatre
Sat Sep 15 — Cincinnati, OH — Taft Theatre
Tue Sep 18 — Toronto, ON — Lee’s Palace
Wed Sep 19 — Montreal, QC — Corona Theatre
Thu Sep 20 — Boston, MA — Paradise
Tue Sep 25 — Washington, DC — Black Catt
Wed Sep 26 — Richmond, VA — Capital Ale House
Thu Sep 27 — Carborro, NC — Cat’s Cradle
Fri Sep 28 — Charlotte, NC — Visulite
Sat Sep 29 — Asheville, NC — Grey Eagle
Mon Oct 1 — Knoxville, TN — Cider House
Tue Oct 2 — Nashville, TN — Mercy Lounge
Wed Oct 3 — Louisville, KY — Bomhard Theater
Fri Oct 5 — Atlanta, GA — Goat Farm
Sat Oct 6 — Athens, GA — 40 Watt
Sun Oct 7 — Birmingham, AL — Bottletree
Tue Oct 9 — New Orleans, LA — Tipitina’s
Wed Oct 10 — Houston, TX — Warehouse Live
Thu Oct 11 — Dallas, TX — Kessler Theater
Sat Oct 13 — Austin, TX — Austin City Limits Festival

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mandingo Ambassadors New Album: Tougna

Anyone familiar with the New York African music scene will surely have heard the Mandingo Ambassadors display their gracefully artistic sound to the delight of listeners and dancers.  For those unfamiliar with the African musical stylings of this virtuosic ensemble, now is the time for your introduction.  Their new album, Tougna, out July 24, 2012 on 1-2-3-4-GO Records, will transport you into another world of dancing and pure musical bliss.

Guitarist, bandleader, and griot, Mamady Kouyate, represents a lineage of musicians stretching back through generations spanning hundreds of years in his native Guinea.  He was raised on the traditional music of his people but bridged the gap to the modern music of the times, transposing the traditional music to the electric guitar.  He was in the middle of the movement led by President Sekou Toure to form a new national identity for newly independent Guinea, made famous by bands like Bembeya Jazz, of which Mamady is a veteran.  

In 2004, Mamady moved to the USA as a political refugee.  It was there, in Brooklyn, NY where he started the Mandingo Ambassadors.  Composed of African musicians from his native Guinea, as well as Europeans and Americans, he continued the legacy and spread of African music to new generations.  The ambassadors' new album, Tougna, is a beautiful collection of songs highlighting Mamady's virtuosic guitar playing with the backing of a lively rhythm section, sailing horns, and the majestic vocals of Bebe Camara.

The Mandingo Ambassadors perform regularly around New York.  They were the first African musical act I saw live in person when I was 22 and visiting the city.  I saw them in a packed room in Barbes in Park Slope.  My mind was completely blown at the beauty of their compositions and their ability to turn the room into a complete dancing frenzy.  I've seen them live several times since, and they've never disappointed me in the least.  Check out their new album, and if you like what your hear, absolutely see them live in person to experience the real thing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance 2012

That time of the year is almost here...The Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance is set to go down next weekend beginning Thursday July 19th.  This year's lineup features Khaira Arby, SMOD, John Brown's Body, Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited, Locos Por Juana, and a long list of other acts from several corners of the globe.  If you've never attended GrassRoots before, this is a great year to start.  You'll be eager to make it a yearly tradition I'm sure.

Dig the interview I conducted with John Brown's Body Drummer Tommy Benedetti in advance of the 2010 GrassRoots Fest:

MGA: I've seen many labels attached to your music, Future Roots Music, the most commonly used. How would you describe your sound in your own words?

TB: I think the term "Future Roots" does describe our music pretty well. We all love and respect Jamaican reggae/dub from the 70s and 80s. So our songs are generally built from a heavy dub influence. But we have many other influences that go into our sound as well. And I think its our job to keep our sound progressing and keep things as fresh as possible. JBB is a thick sound. A big, loud machine.

MGA: How were you first introduced to reggae and who were the artists that made the biggest impact on your musical development?

TB: I was introduced to reggae as I was finishing up at Berklee College of Music in Boston. I took the gig with The Tribulations and went on a crash course of reggae and dub. Kevin Kinsella and Elliot Martin dropped some heavy stuff on me to check out. The Gladiators, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Alpha Blondy. It was a whole new world for me to dive into. Sly and Robbie had a huge influence on my approach to playing dub, and still do to this day.

MGA: The personnel in JBB has changed a lot over the years. How would you describe what the most recent changes have brought to the band?

TB: We've been lucky, that everytime we've lost someone, we've brought in a musician thats really helped JBB progress and get to where we are today. We are very much like a family. There's a lot more involved in being a member of JBB than just being a killer player. This current lineup has been traveling the planet together for over 4 years, which is pretty good for our business.

MGA: How would you describe the evolution of Reggae music over the last twenty years and where it fits in the global music scene?

TB: Reggae is a very far reaching genre. I see a lot of kids all over the country that are being inspired by reggae; a lot of times on tour we will have a local act open the show ,so it's cool to see everyone's unique approach to playing the music. Some of my favorite reggae these days comes from all over the globe. Black Seeds from New Zealand and, Dubmatix from Toronto, Midnite from St Croix...there are a lot of hard working bands doing some real good things these days.

MGA: You guys have played all over the world. How does the reception vary in different places and cultures?

TB: Generally, people come to our shows and are very appreciative I think. We bring something different to the table so not everyone gets it. But we've had some great shows in France, Hawaii, New Zealand, there's always gonna be some places that are better than others, just like in the states, but when we come to town we're gonna throw down, no matter where we are.

MGA: JBB has been playing grassroots for several years. Could you describe the vibe and energy of the festival for those who haven't been there before?

TB: I think I can speak for most of the guys and say that Grassroots is one of, if not our favorite summer fest to play. I always have a great time and the caliber of music is really off the charts. This is probably around our 10th one, so we play to a real big crowd and its an incredible feeling. I recommend it to all of my friends.

MGA: One band I'm especially looking forward to seeing is The Black Seeds, a band with a similar sound to JBB who you guys have toured with extensively. Could you describe their sound and how you feel about it?

TB: They have more of a soul/funk vibe than JBB does maybe, but we share many common influences. I am a huge fan. We had them open a US tour for us last year and they returned the favor by bringing us to New Zealand for 3 weeks of shows. It was a real life changer. To me,they have it all..they're amazing musicians, great songs, and a sound that's all their own..and you know I have to say their drummer Jarney is one of my favorites!

MGA: Who are some of the other acts to which you're especially looking forward to seeing this year at G-Roots?

TB: Unfortunately this year we have to leave Saturday to play a big outdoor show in Boston, so I won't be able to catch as much music as I usually do, but I would be psyched to see Oliver Mutukudzi and Railroad Earth..we did the jam cruise with them back in January..they are a great band..and I think The Black Seeds are playing the same night we are, so I can not wait to see them and party with them

MGA: JBB has evolved and changed quite a bit over the years. Where would you like to see JBB go from here on out musically and otherwise?

TB: I want us to be happy continuing doing what we do..further crafting our sound and bringing it to the people.