Toubab Krewe (Upstream Records UP252, 2005)
The word “toubab” reportedly means something along the lines of “white guy” in much of West Africa, so there’s some degree of self-poking humor in a band from Asheville, NC naming themselves Toubab Krewe. But the laughs stop there. These guys are serious, having spent considerable time in West Africa and learning a good deal. The result is their self-titled debut CD, on which a rockish core of guitar, bass and drums is laced with African kora (21-stringed harp) kamelngoni lute and djembe percussion for an instrumental jam session that skips nimbly back and forth between Africa and America and loses nothing in transit.This is not, however, simply rock and roll with a few ethnic touches.
African rhythms and nuances are at the forefront most of the time, plus a healthy undercurrent of blues and the kind of dry Saharan ambiance familiar to fans of Malian music. What’s more, nine of the album’s ten tracks are traditional pieces, and Toubab Krewe’s arrangements of them make it clear that they’ve gleaned plenty.
Crinkly guitar riffs, freewheeling acoustic and electric solos, chattering percussion and an edgy blend of of authenticity and unpredictability grace tunes both blazing and cool.
Alternately hard as diamonds and smooth as silk, this excellent release is one of the best of the year.
Buy Toubab Krewe