|Janka Nabay and Boshra Al-Saadi|
When I spoke to the singer last week he confessed, "I love to see people dance. Not just to my music, but to any music, because dancing is like medicine. It keeps you fit. That's why we do this." The Bubu Gang wasted no time in inspiring their audience to move, beginning their set with a tropical jam featuring rolling bass lines and springy percussion. Nabay traded vocal flutters with Syrian chanteuse Boshra Al-Saadi, his wild, stream of consciousness raps bending around her smooth, glistening chants. The vocalists showed an incredible musical chemistry, working their voices through the interstices of the groove being laid out by the rest of The Gang.
In taking on the task of revitalizing and updating bubu music, a 500-year old style born from Temne witchcraft ceremonies, Nabay has enlisted the services of an impressive group of Brooklyn-based musicians who did more than hold their own onstage with "The Bubu King." Michael Gallope used his keys to both reference and expand on the traditional role of wind instruments in bubu, bringing elements of highly melodic indie pop and electric dance swirls into the mix. His flourishes and atmospherics swelled over and around Jonathan Leland's tribal drums, combining for what amounted to a futurist's take on African folk. Leland's manic, nerve-wracking percussion on "Eh Mane Ah," from the band's forthcoming En Yay Sah, pushed the audience out of their dancing comfort zone, forcing speedier rhythms and more challenging steps. Gallope's 8-bit-esque synths unraveled over the bop, snapping to silence only when Nabay reached his own vocal crescendos.
The Bubu Gang didn't just challenge the crowd's willingness to dance outside their norm, they went after their ears as well. With nearly all Western pop drawing on blues structures, the hypnotic and repetitive nature of bubu riffs took some getting used to. Both my ears and my feet kept waiting for the expected changes, from a verse to a chorus or what have you, but they never came, or they came when I wasn't expecting it. Once my brain fully switched to bubu mode Nabay and company had me locked in for the duration. Leland and bassist Jason McMahon were relentless in their timing and precision, deepening the groove of each song as it progressed. The tunes were closer in that sense to dance music than rock, making guitarist Doug Shaw's performance even more impressive. His lazery licks and highlights sizzled through the music seamlessly, allowing him moments of aural bravado before slipping back into the mix.
|The Bubu Gang|
The Bubu Gang's set wound down with an uplifting, twinkling number that showed off their bandleader's love of reggae. After the group left the stage, Nabay and Al-Saadi stayed on, leading the crowd through and a capella sing along about being lifted up. With lesser performers it might have been a cheesy or heavy-handed moment, but the two singers pulled it off with perfect sincerity and joy. Again, a reflection on the band itself.
Opening the show were Detroit's Jamaican Queens, whose spacious, drifting dream pop was reminiscent of a spankier Suede. At times a bit overinflated, the group seemed to be aware enough of their most gaseous moments, eventually popping them with mellow melodies and dynamic harmonies. Singer Ryan Spencer's nasal delivery was a nice contrast to the synth-heavy buzz of the groups tumbling rockers, as it met every swell and build-up head on. Their softer moments were as charming as their bombast was exciting, and left me looking forward to hearing more.
|Natural Information Society|