Some music cannot be found on a map or within iTunes categories. Some music is so original it seems snatched from the great, invisible substrata that runs below all human activity, a sound aching to be born without a flag or fixed allegiance - free, questing, overflowing with immediate, tangible life. This is the music of Toubab Krewe, the vibrant Asheville, NC-based instrumental powerhouse that creates a sonic Pangaea that lustily swirls together rock, African traditions, jam sensibilities, international folk strains and more. While nearly impossible to put into any box, it takes only a few moments to realize in a very palpable way that one is face-to-face with a true original who recognizes no borders in a march towards a muscular, original, globally switched-on sound.
Two years in the making, Remember is the full-length debut from New England's Indie/West-African Psychadelic darlings, Barika. A mesmerizing blend of highly danceable polyrhythmic grooves mixed with ethereal dub-scape, Barika (pronounced body-kah) is the brain-child of Kamel N'goni player and Percussionist Craig Myers. The Kamel N'goni, a traditional West African harp from the Wassoulou region of Mali is the driving force on the album, peppered by deep horn, keyboard and bass grooves with uncompromising, sharp hitting drums. From Burlington, Vermont, the seven-piece ensemble features Caleb Bronze (Drums), JP Candelier (Bass), Andric Severence (Keyboards), Craig Myers (Kamel N'goni, Percussion) and a powerhouse of horns with Dave Purcell (Trumpet), Gordon Clark (Trombone) and Deva Racusin (Tenor Sax).
Performer Magazine called Barika "wholly rhythmic, captivating audiences with the beautiful, hypnotic way in which they interweave melody and groove to create something that is not only danceable, but incredibly interesting to listen to. Barika creates a soundscape of funk soaked in psychedelic, West African resonance. The outfit stands out because they are multidimensional."
Band leader Craig Myers has studied traditional West African music for the past 13 years, traveling through Mali, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Guinea and has toured extensively over the past several years with both Rubblebucket and Mike Gordon. Special guest Scott Murawski (Max Creek) with join the band on guitar for several songs.
In the Bambara language of West Africa, Benyoro means meeting place, and that’s exactly what this group is. It’s about the meeting of traditional and modern instruments, African and American musicians, and centuries-old songs and modern arrangements.
The band members hail from exotic locales such as Mali, Martinique, and Wisconsin, but what brings them together is a shared love, respect, and understanding of the music of the jelis (praise musicians) of West Africa, as well as a desire to modernize it. Patrice Blanchard and Andy Algire form the core of the band on bass and drums, respectively, and the addition of Idrissa Koné on taman (talking drum) and Luke Quaranta on djembe gives this rhythm section an unstoppable momentum. Kora (West African harp) player Yacouba Sissoko and guitarist Sam Dickey alternate between elegant accompaniments and blistering solos, while vocalist Abdoulaye Diabaté floats over it all with a voice that will literally send chills down your spine.
Started in late 2011, Benyoro has since performed at numerous venues in New York City including City Winery, Joe’s Pub, Barbès, Rockwood Music Hall, Cameo Gallery, Sullivan Hall, and Shrine. They also performed at the 2012 Manifestivus in Cabot, VT alongside heavy-hitters such as Toubab Krewe, Zongo Junction, and the legendary Diblo Dibala. They are currently working on their debut album.
In Benyoro’s music, the sonorous, stately melodies of traditional jeliya (praise-singing) are sped up and reconfigured into infectious grooves, but even in the midst of all the movement, the reflective core of the music remains. With this meeting of meditative tradition and raucous dance music, Benyoro is a celebration of the communal and universal nature of West African music.