With the release of 2013’s Leriq-produced full-length debut L.I.F.E., which featured attention-grabbing singles like “Like to Party,” “Tonight”, “Always Love You”, “Run My Race” and “Yawa Dey,” Burna Boy, a Nigerian Afro-fusion singer/songwriter, born Damini […]
Professionally known as Kaleta, Leon Ligan-Majek is a Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer, who leads the up-and-coming local, Afro-funk act Kaleta and Super Yamba Band. Although the project is relatively new to the scene, Ligan-Majek can trace his music career back to Lagos, Nigeria, where Ligan-Majek spent his teenaged years playing in local churches. Eventually, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based signer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer caught the attention of renowned juju pioneer King Sunny Ade. “I was at Church when I heard King Sunny Ade sound checking one block away. By the time church service was over Sunny Ade’s gig was in full gear,” Ligan-Majek says of his first encounter with King Sunny Ade. “I infiltrated the gathering, snuck into the front row to watch the show. At the strike of the last note, right before Sunny Ade disappeared I went between him and his body guard and told him point blank my desire to play guitar for his band. He invited me to his house. I went the next day with a cassette containing songs and guitar riffs I wrote with him in mind.”
Kaleta went on to spend several years in King Sunny Ade’s backing band, recording four albums with the Juju pioneer before leaving the band to join Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and Egypt 80. Unsurprisingly, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer learned how to fuse elements from an electric array of West African genres and styles — including highlife, juju, Afrobeat, Afro-funk and Afro-dance.
In 1991, Ligan-Majek relocated from Lagos to New York after Fela Kuti and Egypt 80 completed the North American leg of their world tour. And almost as soon as he set foot in New York, he wound up being the co-founder of two Afrobeat ensembles, Akoya Afrobeat and Zozo Afrobeat — and as a member those acts, he had shared stages with the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Yellowman, and Lauryn Hill. “Lauryn Hill was rehearsing in the same music complex when she heard my music from another room,” Kaleta recalls. “She stormed into Zozo Afrobeat’s rehearsal, and two weeks later, I was on tour with her playing guitar and traditional Beninese percussion. . . we performed about 45 dates all over the world.”
While Ligan-Majek’s chops suited him well to back some of biggest names in music, he had an irresistible drive to create his own unique work. He searched for a band of his own but he knew that he needed a perfect combination — an irrefutable explosion of creative energy that came from a dedicated, like-minded group of musicians. Interestingly, Ligan-Majek credits his ambition and his vision to his older brother’s massive influence. Ligan-Ozavino Pascal was an obsessive music listener, with a passion for funk and soul. And as the story goes, Ligan-Ozavino Pascal occasionally weaponized his record collection to teach his younger brother discipline. When Kaleta misbehaved, his older brother would lock him in his room with a pile of records. The price of his freedom? A careful listen. “I had to submit to his huge love for music,” says Kaleta. “He introduced me to James Brown, Otis Redding, and other American, French and Cuban music.”
The Brooklyn-based Super Yamba Band, comprised of Daniel Yount (drums), Evan Frierson (percussion), Walter Fancourt (sax), Sean Smith (trumpet) have long been students and devoted fans of vintage West African, psychedelic Afro-funk. When they met Kaleta, who sang and played guitar over roots-rhythms while bbringing his infectious style to the project, things clicked. “I loved the way they stick together as a team,” says Kaleta. “Their exuberance. Their love for African music, notably Benin funk… I found out they were listening to my idols, too.” Between the members of the project, it became obvious that they stumbled upon something rare, exciting and in need of further cultivation and exploration. The members of Super Yamba Band had the skill and dedication that Kaleta had long sought for his solo work — and in turn, Kaleta brought the heard-earned wisdom from four decades as a professional musician that he was eager to share with bandmates.
Since their formation, the band has spent the past couple of years honing their material and playing live shows across town and elsewhere, including an opening set last year for Niger-based Afro funk/Afro pop act Tal National and an appearance at last year’s Barbes and Electric Cowbell Records Secret Planet APAP Showcase. Interestingly, the band’s “Mr. Diva” was remastered and re-released earlier this year — and as the story goes, the band was so encouraged by the success at recreating their live sound in the studio, that they set out to record what would eventually become their forthcoming full-length debut Medaho.
Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through Ubiquity Records, Kaleta and Super Yamba Band’s full-length debut derives its name from the Goun and Fon word for “big brother,” “elder,””teacher” — and the album is dedicated to the memory of Kaleta’s brother Ligan-Ozavino, who died earlier this year. Sonically, the material finds the band unabashedly paying homage to its massive influences, including James Brown, Fela Kuti, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego, The Funkees, among others — but interpreting their work, learning from it, deconstructing it when necessary, amplifying it, defying it and pushing it and the sound into the future.
Mèdaho‘s first single is album title track “Mèdaho.” Centered around a looping, wah-wah and other pedal effected guitar lines, a sinuous groove, propulsive percussion and Kaleta’s grunts and howls, the song manages to recall He Miss Road/Expensive Shit-era Fela Kuti, The Payback-era James Brown, as it possesses a similar grit and forcefulness — but unlike the period specific work that has influenced the track features a lysergic haze.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man, and as you may recall, the act which was founded by Marcos Garcia and Geoff Man has received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that seamlessly bridges Fela Kuti Afrobeat grooves with classic Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock.
The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay’s sophomore album, last year’s You Will Know Nothing found the band refining and expanding their sound. “We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs. Tony Iommi’s innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song,” the band’s Marcos Garcia explained in press notes. “We are talking the same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi, it was the blues, for us to comes directly from Africa.” The album also found the band focusing on writing catchier, much more anthemic songs with thematically conceptualized lyrics focusing on states of being and consciousness. Additionally, they aimed for slicker production values than its predecessor. “We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience. Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished,” Garcia added.
Sonically, the material was composed with music theory in mind — interludes between songs were written and recorded with them specifically being 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the tempo of the song proceeding it. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa,” Here Lies Man’s Geoff Mann explains in press notes.
Slated for an August 16, 2019 release through RidingEasy Records, the forthcoming mini-album No Ground to Walk Upon finds the band continuing the aesthetic they’ve developed through their first two albums but conceptually the material is essentially the soundtrack to an imaginary movie with each song being the score for a key scene of that movie. The mini-album’s swaggering and strutting, first single “Clad in Silver” is centered around buzzing power chords, propulsive Afro-Caribbean rhythms and punchily delivered lyrics within an expansive, hallucinogenic song structure. As the band explains in press notes, the mini-album’s lead single “is the soundtrack snippet of a journey to the imaginary place called home, which can never be arrived at. With every step, the character imagines getting closer, bu it is a hallucination that fades in and out of perception.”
Last month, I wrote about the Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based psych rock quartet Possum, and as you may recall the band, which is comprised of Brandon Bak (guitar, vocals), Tobin Hopwood (guitar), Patrick Lefler (bass) and Bradley Thibodeau (drums) met within their hometown’s psych rock and garage rock scenes. The members of the band bonded over their mutual love and appreciation of acts like of CAN, Grateful Dead, Fela Kuti and Ty Segall — but the end result is a sound that can be loosely described as a fusion of garage rock, krautrock, psych rock and ethno jazz, complete with rapid tempo and time signature change, hypnotic riffs and chugging, motorik grooves.
Live, their shows are an immersive experience in which the band pairs high energy performances and trippy sounds with lysergic visual projections by The Oscillitarium. And as a result of their live show, the members of Possum have shared stages with the likes of the aforementioned Ty Segall, All Them Witches, Shannon and The Clams, Bombino, L.A. Witch and Chad VanGaalen.
Interestingly, the Canadian psych rockers have maintained a steadfast and ardent DIY ethos in which they’ve independently recorded, mixed and produced their material using old analog tape machines — and they’ve packaged their music themselves. In fact, Possum’s full-length debut, Space Grade Assembly, which is slated for release later this month continues the band’s DIY ethos with the material recorded almost entirely live and mixed by the band’s Brandon Bak and Tobin Hopwood. Album single “The Hills” was an expansive and heady mix of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin power chord-fueled riffing, thunderous drumming, Afrobeat and Latin-tinged percussion that found the band’s production nodding at shoegaze, classic psych rock and krautrock simultaneously.
Clocking in at a little over eight minutes, “Worms Hollow,” Space Grade Assembly‘s latest single is a mind-altering and expansive track that’s one part 60s inspired garage psych, one part motorik groove-driven krautrock and one part space rock centered around a focused and urgent performance.
Possum is currently on a lengthy North American tour. Check out the remaining tour dates below.
June 7 – Chicago, IL (Emporium)
June 8 – Kansas City, MI (TBA)
June 9 – Denver, CO (Second City Music Collective)
June 11 – San Francisco, CA (Knockout Lounge)
June 13 – Portland, OR (Post 134)
June 14 – Seattle, WA (Clock Out Lounge)
June 16 – Vancouver, BC (Static Jupiter)
June 17 – Victoria, BC (Copper House)
June 18 – Nanaimo, BC (Nanaimo Bar)
June 19 – Kelowna. BC (Fernando’s)
June 20 – Kamloops, BC (Blue Grotto)
June 21/22/23 – Calgary, AB (Sled Island Muisc Festival)
June 24 – Regina, SK (TA Vinyl and Fashion)
June 25 – Winnepeg, MB (Handsome Daughter)
June 26 – Minneapolis, MN (Terminal Bar)
June 27 – Milwaukee, WI (Cactus Club)
June 28 – Detroit, MI (Kelly’s Bar)
Comprised of Brandon Bak (guitar, vocals), Tobin Hopwood (guitar), Patrick Lefler (bass) and Bradley Thibodeau (drums), the Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based psych rock quartet Possum met within their hometown’s psych and garage scenes. And as as the story goes, the members of the up-and-coming Canadian psych rock act bonded over a mutual love and appreciation of CAN, Grateful Dead, Fela Kuti and Ty Segall — with the end result being a sound that’s a fusion of garage rock, kraut rock, psych rock, ethno jazz, complete with rapidly tempo and time signature changes, hypnotic riffs and chugging bass. Their live shows are an immersive experience which finds the band pairing pairing high energy performances and trippy sounds with lysergic visual projections by The Oscillitarium. As a result of their high energy shows, Possum has shared stages with the likes of Ty Segall, All Them Witches, Shannon and The Clams, Bombino, L.A. Witch and Chad VanGaalen.
Using old tape machines, the Canadian psych rock act has managed to independently record, mix, produce and package all of their music; in fact, their full-length debut, Space Grade Assembly, which is slated for a June 21, 2019 release through Garment District Records finds the band further establishing their DIY ethos with the material being recorded almost entirely live and mixed by the band’s Brandon Bak and Tobin Hopwood. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “The Hills” is an expansive and heady mix of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin power chord-fueled riffing, thunderous drumming, Afrobeat and Latin-tinged percussion, jowering shoegazer meets 60s psych rock production and kraut rock with a cosmic glow and a muscular forcefulness. As the band explains, “‘The Hills’ came about after our experience at the Frontier Ghost Town – an authentic wild west camp where they once filmed a Charles Manson movie. Sonically, we wanted to travel between the feel of Mylar & Haight-Ashbury era mysticism.”
Unsurprisingly, the recently released video for “The Hills” is an appropriately feverish and lysergic affair.
Comprised of Sebastien Bui (keys), Eli Ghersinu (dino bass), Stefan Lilov (broken wah guitar), Yavor Lilov (kicker’s delight/endless kick/bronto kick), Quentin Pilet (bongos), Alain Sandri (congas) and DJ Laxxiste (440 FX), the Geneva, Switzerland-based instrumental act L’Eclair describe their sound in a number of different ways on their Facebook page, including “as if Booker T and the MGs came from Eastern Europe,” an obscure 70s movie soundtrack and as “kraut-exo-soul, brutal funk and Turkish groove.”
The Geneva, Switzerland-based instrumental act’s forthcoming sophomore album Sauropoda is slated for a May 24, 2019 release through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records — and the album, which was recorded over the course of two days last October in an undisclosed mountainous location is comprised of deep jams the band road-testing following the recording and release of last year’s breakthrough debut album Polymood. Recorded live and with few overdubs, Sauropoda‘s compositions are reportedly much more organic and capturing the band’s live sound much more accurately than its predecessor. Interestingly, the album’s trippy and cinematic first single “Endless Dave” it’s a wild yet seamless synthesis of Expensive Shit/He Miss Road-era Fela Kuti, Return to Forever-like jazz fusion, prog rock, dub and spaced out psychedelic and 70s soul that sounds both familiar and unlike anything I’ve heard this year.
The recently released video by banditbandeau features incredibly lysergic and lo-fi visuals including wild splashes of color, hypnotic moving shapes and geometric figures that look like textbook figures describing the curvature of spacetime, mixed with found footage and early computer rendered graphics undulating to the funky groove.
Over the past handful of years, I’ve written about and photographed the acclaimed Staten Island-based instrumental act and JOVM mainstays The Budos Band a number of times. And as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Jared Tankel (baritone sax), Tom Brenneck (guitar), John Carbonella (congas, drums), Mike Deller (organ), Daniel Folder (bass), Andrew Greene (trumpet), Rob Lombardo (bongos, congas), Brian Profilio (drums) and Dame Rodriguez (percussion) initially developed a reputation for a sound that they described as “Afro Soul,” which draws from Ethiopian music, classic soul and funk; however, with the most band’s most recent releases, their sound has evolved towards what they’ve referred to as “70s Psychedelic Instrumental Music.”Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Staten Island-based act’s fifth full-length album, the aptly titled V is slated for release next week through their longtime label home Daptone Records, and as the band’s Tom Brenneck says in press notes, the band’s forthcoming album feels like the truest sonic representation of the band as the material possesses the rock ‘n’ roll/heavy metal elements off of 2014’s Burnt Offering, as well as songs that could have easily been found on their first three albums. The album’s first single “Arcane Rambler” featured a composition that nodded at hip-hop, 70s fuck, Afro funk and psych rock — and in a way that found them at arguably their loosest and trippiest. V‘s second single was the Ennio Morricone-like “Veil of Shadows,” a composition that’s centered around reverb-drenched guitar, shimmering and soaring organs and a big Western/Mexican-like horn arrangement — and as a result, the track possesses a cinematic quality; in fact, to my ears, it sounds as though it should have been part of the soundtrack for Kill Bill.Just before their two night NYC area run — April 5, 2019 at the Bowery Ballroom and April 6, 2019 at Music Hall of Williamsburg — the Staten Island-based JOVM mainstays released V’s third and latest single, the menacing “Maelstrom” brings several disparate things to mind — the Fela meets Black Sabbath power chord-based arrangements of Here Lies Man, a lysergic-tinged Morricone meets Quentin Tarantino Western. The expansive composition features their imitable and explosive horn line, reverb-drenched guitar and a propulsive rhythm section, giving the track a forceful yet funky muscle.
I’ve written quite a bit about this site’s newest mainstay, the London-based act Ibibio Sound Machine over the past few months, and the act, which is fronted by Nigerian-born vocalist Eno Williams and features Alfred Kari Bannerman (guitar), Anselmo Netto (percussion), Jose Joyette (drums), Derrick McIntyre (bass), Tony Hayden (trombone, synth), Scott Baylis (trumpet, synth) and Max Grunhard (sax, synth) over the course of their first two albums — 2014’s self-titled debut and 2017’s Uyai — have received attention both nationally and internationally for a sound that’s influenced by golden era West African funk and disco and contemporary post-punk and electro pop.
Now, as you may recall, the London-based act’s third, full-length album Doko Mien is slated for a March 22, 2019 release through Merge Records, and the album which derives its name from the Ibibio phase that translates into English as “tell me,” reportedly finds the act crafting a sonic world of entrancing specificity and comforting universality, essentially blurring the lines separating cultures, between nature and technology, between joy and pain, between tradition and the future. Album title track and first official single, “Doko Mien,” was centered around a glimmering, hook-driven club banger featuring 80s synth funk meets disco-like beats, arpeggiated synths, African polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and pizzicato guitar and an explosive horn arrangement. Sonically, the song strikes me as a wild, genre-bending amalgamation of I Feel For You-era Chaka Khan, Prince, Michael Jackson‘s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin‘,” Chicago house and Fela Kuti — and adding to the globalist vibes, Williams soulfully sings lyrics in both English and Ibibio, the Nigerian dialect from which the London-based act derives its name.
Doko Mien‘s second and latest single “Wanna Come Down” continues in a similar, club-banging vein as its predecessor as its centered around a rubbery, Bootsy Collins meets Flea bass line, an explosive horn line, arpeggiated synths and propulsive beats and Williams powerhouse vocals singing lyrics in her native Ibibio and English. Sonically, the song is a wild and seamless synthesis of 80s synth funk, Afrobeat and JOVM mainstays Escort — all while feeling like a sultry come on. In line with the track’s beckoning title, the band’s frontwoman Eno Williams says, “The Ibibio lyrics of the track are about the healing power of the river and the chorus. ‘Wanna come down, get ready ‘coz we’re gonna go’ is inviting people to come, dance and get involved with what’s going on.”
The recently released video employs the use of a bold and vivid color palette that includes reds, blues, white, yellows, purples and an array of other pastels, as well as split screens that feature each of the band’s musicians performing the funky club banger; but the heart of the song and the video is the band’s commanding frontowman.