Benin’s Big Brass Blow

Gangbe Brass Band – Whendo
Gangbe Brass Band

Whendo (World Village 468050, 2005)

The colonization of many an African nation in the 19th century brought European music to those countries as well. Benin’sGangbe Brass Band are determined to make clear the extent to which horns were part of the equation, driving the
point further along by not only throwing in the sort of expert horn chops you’d hear in styles like Afrobeat but also just plain throwing down in a style all their own.

An abundance of interlocking percussion, often accompanied by hearty call-and-response vocals, builds a nonstop backbone to every track on this terrific disc and provides a reminder of the primal power that’s always mattered in African music. And oh, those horns. Trumpets, trombone, saxophone and euphonium (a smaller relative of the tuba) follow up the charge led by the percussion, sometimes purring along, sometimes bursting out full force, sometimes matching the intricacy of the drumming and always shining exactly the way brass ought to. (Think of a Nigerian juju band with horns instead of guitars
and you’ll get some idea of how this sounds.)

Those who’ve had an influence on the Gangbe guys are clarified in at least one song title (“Remember Fela”), but you won’t have to listen too hard to hear that this crew has also gotten wind of sounds from New Orleans, the Caribbean, Latin America and even similarly lively Balkan brass outfits like Fanfare Ciocarlia. No African music fan should pass this CD by, but lovers of razor sharp horn and percussion playing are particularly urged to seek it out.

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Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.