Janka Nabay is the undisputed king of bubu, a frantically-paced dance music with ancient, magical origins in Sierra Leone. The Bubu Gang are the posse of musical collaborators he has hooked up with in the US (featuring members of Skeletons and Gang Gang Dance among others), to create a wild, high-octane juggernaut of call-and-response vocal interplay, juddering dancefloor rhythms, synths and guitars: throw in a taste for tearaway improvisation and you have an absolute blast of a sound, that keeps it quick, loose and natural and runs on pure musical joy. Ready to hit hard and true in full band format at festivals worldwide in 2012. An EP drops on True Panther Sounds in March before a full-length album on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label later in the year.
Janka single-handedly radicalised bubu in his native Freetown, Sierra Leone in the nineties, adding drum machine kicks and twitching synths to its airy hum of blown bamboo shoots and carburetor pipes. Then he relocated to Philadelphia, and after a decade off the musical radar he found a Stateside vessel for his infectious music in True Panther Sounds, who released a well-received EP in 2010. This caught the well-tuned ears of the mostly Brooklyn-based players who would go on to make up the Bubu Gang, namely Doug Shaw (Gang Gang Dance, Highlife, White Magic), Jason McMahon & Jonathan Leland (Skeletons), Michael Gallope (Starring) and vocalist Boshra Al-Saadi: a series of sweatbox US shows followed, and all involved realized they had birthed something beyond the sum of its parts: "We speak one language now", says Janka of these exciting new sounds, that draw as much from Janka's own bubu as they do from the sunny energy of Ghanaian highlife, the extended improvisations of 70s Miles Davis, the hypnotic rhythms of classic Afro-beat and the swirling echoes of 60s and 70s psychedelia.
The music of Zansa (a Nouchi slang word from the Ivory Coast meaning combination, or blend) is a mix of traditional and modern styles from West Africa, America, and beyond. The Asheville-based ensemble blends African folk songs with modern afropop and the driving, pulsating rhythms of African drumming. Hints of rock, afrobeat, and Latin music are also woven into the mix. The result is an original take on the authentic sounds of West Africa.
Zansa is led by 33rd generation djembe player Adama Dembele, whose musical career began in the late '90s when he started drum and dance group Djembeso in his homeland of the Ivory Coast. He adapted traditional songs and rhythms, eventually melding them into his own style. After moving to Asheville, NC, in 2005, Dembele has continued to develop and expand his sound.
Today, Zansa is taking those traditional songs and rhythms and incorporating Western instruments, such as electric guitar, bass, and drumset, offering a wider range of sonic possibilities. The music is rooted in the West African drumming tradition Dembele was born into and blended with a strong rhythm section and modern approach, lending familiarity to foreign sounds.
Asheville Music Hall (View)
31 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801