Live Concert Photography: Barbes and Electric Cowbell Records Present: Secret Planet APAP Showcase at DROM 1/13/18 feat. Bulla en el Barrio, Drunken Foreigner, Mourning [A] BLKSTR, Combo Chimbita, Anabessa Orchestra, and Hearing Things
The Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) is a national service, advocacy and membership organization for those within the performing arts — particularly within dance and theater; but they’ve also developed a reputation for their involvement with musicians and artists who specialize in “world music.” Along with an annual conference, which features discussion panels, lectures, networking sessions and more for artists producing, recording and creating art in an extremely complicated political landscape both here in the States and elsewhere, there are number of curated showcases hosted and/or sponsored by a handful of the city’s “world music” venues. And those showcases typically feature an incredibly diverse array of artists performing material across an even wider range of styles and genres. Throughout JOVM’s almost 8 year history, it’s been an annual tradition that I cover some of APAP’s musical offerings — and they’re often a highlight of the musical year.
Barbes, a South Slope, Brooklyn-based bar and performance space, owned and operated by two French musicians and long-time Brooklyn residents derives its name from the Northern Paris neighborhood of Barbes. Interestingly, the neighborhood is best known for discount stores, a large North African population and some of Paris’ best record stores; in fact, many of the record stores in the Barbes section helped launched the explosion of Rai music in the mid 1980s. The venue, inspired by the Parisian neighborhood it derives its name, focuses on conviviality, bargain hunting (in terms of drink specials) and cultural variety through eclectic programming. At any given point you may see Lebanese folk, Latin protest songs, Mexican bandas, Romanian brass bands, psychedelic Colombian cumbia and countless other things within their intimate performance space. But perhaps more important, the venue’s management believes that they fill an important gap within a neighborhood that still is home to large community of artists, musicians and writers but offers very little in terms of performance venues, reading spaces and so on. Founded by Jim Thomson, Electric Cowbell Records is a Brooklyn-based record label that specializes in an eclectic, anything goes approach to funk, dance music, left field pop and anything else under the sun. Throughout APAP’s annual run Barbes and Electric Cowbell Records have co-hosted or co-presented at least one APAP showcase at DROM in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, including last month’s Secret Planet Showcase, which featured the New York-based Colombian folk collective Bulla en el Barrio; the Brooklyn-based act Drunken Foreigner, which specializes in a sprawling, psych rock-like iteration of the Akha and Lam Lao musics of Thailand and Laos; the Cleveland, OH-based Afro-futuristic soul act Mourning [A] BLKSTAR; the New York-based Afro-futuristic-inspired, psychedelic cumbia act Combo Chimbita; the New York-based Ethiopian funk and jazz-inspired septet Anabessa Orchestra; and closing out the night was the New York-based act Hearing Things which specializes in a sound that draws from Middle Eastern music, surf rock, and 60s soul and R&B. (ED NOTE: Thanks to some MTA issues, I unfortunately missed the night’s first two acts — Christylez Bacon & Nistha Raj’s Bhairavi Beatbox, an act the that received attention for meshing progressive Indian music with hip-hop, and Kaleta and Super Yamba Band, a Brooklyn-based Afrobeat/Afro-funk act fronted by Afrobeat legend Leon Ligan Majek, a.k.a. Kaleta; Kaleta has toured with Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade, two of the genre’s leading and competing figures. I hope to catch those two acts at some point in the near future and will be seeing them out.) Check out photos from an incredible night of live music below.
Bulla en el Barrio is a New York-based collective featuring Camilo Rodriguez, Juan Ospina, Andres Jiminez, Gabriel Benavides, Andres Fonseca, Victor Cruz, Victoria Tapias, Rocio Jaimes, Julissa Maldonado, Beatriz, Martha Herrera, Roxane Kasegari and Carolina Oliveros. And the collective aims to share the traditions, experiences and lives of the cantadoras from the Uraba, Cordoba, Bolivar and Atlantico regions of Colombia through the folk dances and songs that women of those regions have used to express themselves. Typically, the arrangements are deceptively simple — a vocalist, frequently backed by call and response chorus and propulsive percussion. And while capturing the traditions of their homeland, the collective also indirectly makes a deeper connection back to the African Diaspora, as its overall sound reminded me of traditional African folk musics, as well.
Currently featuring founding member Dave Kadden (keyboards, vocals), along with Jim McHugh (electric phil, vocals), Adam Apuzzo (drums, vocals) and Micheal Hurder (bass, vocals). the Brooklyn-based act Drunken Foreigner has developed a reputation for a psych rock-inspired take on the largely vocal-based Akha and Lam Lao musics of Thailand and Laos, which was primarily learned from cassette tapes gathered during Kadden’s numerous trips through Southeast Asia. Their Secret Planet Showcase set featured material off White Guy Disease, which was released through Electric Cowbell.
Formed by producer and musical director RA Washington and featuring James Longs (vocals), LaToya Kent (vocals) and Kyle Kidd (vocals), the Cleveland, OH-based act Mourning [A] BLKSTAR meshes soul music, the blues, electronics, avant-poetics and futuristic beats as a way to forge a new pathway towards “heart music.” It shouldn’t be surprising that in some way, the Cleveland, OH-based collective’s sound seems to draw from Sun Ra and his Arkestra.
Last year, Figure & Ground Records released the act’s Lily Wen-produced, sophomore full-length effort Abya Yala, an eight track album which featured the band’s unique Tropical Futurism, powered by Oliveros’ vocals.