Precious Commodity (Shackrobeat Records, 2009)
Precious Commodity, the latest recording by Aphrodesia takes American Afrobeat into exciting new explorations. While the Afrobeat rhythms, powerful brass section, female vocals and funky guitar are still the core component of the San Francisco Bay Area band, Aphrodesia incorporates fiery electric guitar solos, distorted mbira and Afro-Cuban spiritual elements. Guitar solos are rare in Afrobeat music, but the band’s exposure to Konono n.1 and other acts, opened their minds to incorporate new elements. “It was really funny: We played this one gig a redneck bar in woods near Santa Cruz, and the sound guy, as he was packing up, said ‘I ain’t never seen a band with two guitarists and no guitar solos.’ On this album we have three, and they are all awesome,” recounts Aphrodesia bassist and songwriter Ezra Gale. “To us, it was just another symptom of us opening up and looking for different things.”
Several members of Aphrodesia moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to New York and this situation, has had positive effecst in the development of the band. “We had something we haven’t had before, a diversity of feedback and viewpoints in the studio, because in New York, all these talented people will just stop by the studio and listen,” people like Gale’s friends from the Blue Man Group who gave Gale input on several tracks. “It’s a product of working somewhere where you have to drive like California versus New York, where you walk down the block and bump into people,” Gale muses.
“Sonically, our music has become much more varied than in the past. And this album broadens and strengthens what we have been building on,” says Gale. “It was a conscious decision, really getting more creative and going for different sounds, discovering a much more diverse palette of instruments and sonic surprises.”
Social concerns and exploitation play an important role in Aphrodesia ‘s message, such as the song Special Girl’. “We learned the term ‘Special Girl’ from a friend who had just returned from Shanghai on business,” explains singer and songwriter Lara Maykovich. “He was offered, a special girl, a prostitute. The song is the story of this trans-continental sex trade, a kind of mockery of this old game where man thinks he is winning. Power and money are evidently not the final quench. The thirst is satisfied by a more precious commodity. Sex, our most powerful possession and that which connects us to the unstoppable nature that man will never control. We began to think about the West’s misconceptions on what is of value. The fear-driven mass of consumption, our denial of death that obstructs us from seeing what is truly precious.”
“As lyricists we carefully consider our invocations and intentionally apply them to our current political world struggles and our own fractured American reality,” explains Maykovich. “Since the voice of suffering is universal and passion is interchangeable, we don’t consider this a borrowed tradition. It’s one of the many traditions of mystery spiritual being have originated from.”
“I think because we are a younger white band, we felt like we needed to prove ourselves. We really wanted to do things right and give the music respect, and going to Africa was part of that,” explains Gale. “We feel like we have done that, though of course we’re always learning. But there is a feeling that we have gone down that path of trying to do everything authentically, now it’s time to embrace our own sound.”
With Precious Commodity, Aphrodesia has created a delightful mix of Afrobeat, funk, and global music.
Buy Precious Commodity.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.