Lucid Culture


Debo Band’s New Ethiopian Dance EP is Predictably Amazing

More bands should do live albums. Boston-based Ethiopian groove orchestra Debo Band are as good a candidate as any. If their expansive new four-song ep Flamingoh (Pink Bird Dawn), recorded live on the band’s 2010 East African tour and available for five bucks at their bandcamp site, is any indication, their upcoming full-length concert cd will be unbelievable. Although they frequently indulge in the tricky polyrhythms in most Ethiopian dance music, this one grooves along to a pretty much straight-up 4/4. If these songs don’t make you move, you need to be defibrillated.

It’s amazing how interesting Debo Band can make a one-chord jam sound. Through all the catchy hooks, the hypnotic vamps, the funky grooves and sizzling horn motifs, there’s one chord change on the album. It’s on one of the songs’ choruses – that’s it. For those who listen to music from India, for example, that’s to be expected, but for music as funky as this, it’s quite a change. That it’s barely noticeable says a lot about how much fun it is. The six-minute opening track works a swaying, insanely catchy minor-key funk vamp with wah guitar, tight horns and incisive staccato violin accents from Jonah Rapino: he jumps on the hook and takes a juicy funk solo over the steady pulse of PJ Goodwin’s bass and the slinky shuffle of Keith Waters’ drums. Danny Mekkonen’s tenor sax sneaks in almost imperceptibly, then out, then in again with the rest of the section in tow. It’s a monster track. When’s the last time you heard a juicy funk solo played by a violin? Ever? That they’d have one pretty much speaks for itself.

The second cut has frontman Bruck Tesfaye singing lyrics in Amharic, careening along with wah-wah on the violin and snarling, distorted upper-register guitar from Brendon Wood. When it reaches the point where the interlocking guitar, horn and violin themes all mingle, it’s psychedelic beyond belief. The tension between squawking tenor sax and wailing electric lead guitar as the intensity rises slowly toward the end is typical of how this band works a crowd of dancers. A fervent, impassioned guest vocalist lends her powerful alto voice to the third cut, a bouncy, hook-driven joint with playful tradeoffs between the horns and Stacey Cordeiro’s accordion as it opens, followed by a seemingly endless series of oldschool funk turnarounds and a big fluttering crescendo at the end. The last cut works down to a mysterious, slinky reggae groove punctuated by a low ominous pulse from Arik Grier’s sousaphone, down even lower to a spooky dub breakdown, and out with a bang. Debo Band make frequent stops in NYC: their show last month at Joe’s Pub was characteristically fun. Watch this space for upcoming dates.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Stop, Zanzibar: Hold Onto Your Seat!

Sounds of Taraab played Barbes last night. What an amazing band. It shouldn’t be long before this dynamic ensemble starts selling out big concert halls. In the meantime, the packed house in the back room here got to witness an incandescent, frequently transcendent performance. Sounds of Taraab plays East African coastal music, a blend of Levantine dance music and Indian film themes set to African rhythms, sung in Kiswahili. Tonight’s performance highlighted songs with a haunting, slinky, snakecharmer feel along with a few more distinctly African numbers, including a warm, passionate concluding number whose melody echoed what could have been the central hook in a mid-60s American soul music hit. Sudanese vocalist Alsarah held the audience captive with her effortlessly soulful vocals, inducing chills on the few occasions when she went full tilt, sailing into a riveting upper register. Accordionist Ismail Butera is the lead player in this unit, stealing the show with his wildly intense accordion work, a mix of sizzling runs all over the keyboard and big, expansive chords that he would use to build to a screaming crescendo. Oud player Haig Magnookian began several of the songs solo, showing off his dazzling speed and expert command of Arab modalities. Violinist Michael Hess added to the intoxicating mix of textures when he wasn’t being called on for an ethereal, atmospheric solo, and the two percussionists – one, a woman, who played a ceramic jug on one song, and later delivered a sizzling, sultry vocal on a Tanzanian love ballad – kept the audience swaying and clapping along. What a great discovery, and what a treat to witness live. Don’t miss the chance to see them.

And while you may be used to being dismissed or dissed outright at other clubs, consider what happened to the Lucid Culture crew last night at Barbes. Though the place was packed and the waitress had dozens of drink orders to fill, when she noticed that our table was wobbly, she stopped right in the middle of what she was doing and found something to stabilize it. She didn’t have to do that. But she did. Which was really cool. If a waitress at the Living Room noticed you had a wobbly table, she’d probably deliberately set your drinks on it so that they’d spill, and then she’d berate you for anything that landed on the floor.

April 5, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment