The West African poet Niyi Osundare is known to have crowds chant along with him during his readings. When Osundare is at home in Nigeria, drummers play to his poems while he recites them aloud, adding rhythmic beats to the symbolism. The history, culture, and poetry of Africa are passed between generations as an oral history, and in Western Africa this legacy holds especially true. While Osundare does publish his poems, he feels they come alive when he and his audience sings/chants/performs them, words blossoming in the communal voice. The members of Toubab Krewe have spent time in Western Africa, absorbing that sense of community with some of it’s greatest musicians ranging from Koungbanan Conde who plays djembe to Lamine Soumano on Kora and various chordophone’s.
If this seems a bit exotic to you, fear not. The members of Toubab Krewe (Whose name roughly translates to “Non-African” or “Foreigner” Crew) will guide you on a sonic journey that incorporates the sounds of Western-Africa, with modern American stylings. These adventurers from Asheville, NC are proof that the world is becoming a smaller place.
The all instrumental Self-Titled first release of Toubab Krewe works within the framework of Traditional songs arraigned by Toubab Krewe themselves; Drew Heller (Guitar) Justin Perkins (Kamel Ngoni, Kora and Guitar) Teal Brown (Drumset) Luke Quaranta (Percussion) and Dave Pransky (Bass). Mixing instruments from all over, they have managed to create a cauldron of percussion and a stew of strings that draws in the modern day music fan as well as traditionalists, never an easy task. Fleeting hip-hop breaks and trembling guitar notes enter and can sustain or scramble songs keeping their audience guessing.
The first half of the disk feels more traditional, but not overtly so, as the electric guitar break on the track “Bani” brings the rock and roll to the towns and villages of West Africa. The drum/percussion excursion of “Asheville to Abidjan”, which divides the disk, is a flex of percussive muscle that unfortunately overstays its welcome at 6 and a half minutes.
However, the second half of the disk is a great success. The playing flows like a beautiful sunrise, bubbling up in “Djarabi” replicating dawn in the early morning “Rooster, then setting in the tripped out disk closing voyage titled “Bamana Niya.” A tune in the middle of this run is “Hang Tan” which was the lone track developed by the Krewe outside of any traditional song structure, and it works wonders. Toubab Krewe tossed surf guitar, funk, and popping cymbals into a blender, revved them up and served the sound as a protein shake to the Rza right before he started work on the [I]Kill Bill[/I] sound track. The stand out track on the album, “Hang Tan”, shows that the Krewe has the ability to cast it’s nets even further over the musical horizon and haul in keepers.
The many levels contained within Toubab Krewe’s self-titled album, surround and reward the ear upon multiple listens. The polyrhythmic spider webs entangle; meshing scurrying string romps with the pulsing of low end, the result is sense of community formed with the musical world as a whole, and a great rookie release from the Krewe.