Tag Archives: Voodoo

An Afro-Roots Experiment That Worked

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra (Glitterbeat, 2016)

Nigerian Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen recorded a set of jams rooted in Afro-rooted rhythms from Africa and Haiti that appear on the self-titled AHEO Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra.

The idea for this project was spearheaded by Corinne Micaelli, the director of the French Institute in Haiti. She brought Tony Allen, an Afrobeat pioneer and trendsetter to perform in Haiti with local musicians. Erol Josué, a singer, dancer, voodoo priest, and director of the Haitian National Bureau of Ethnology, helped to recruit local percussionists and singers. They chose musician’s from Haiti’s leading bands, including Racine Mapou de Azor, RAM, Erol’s own band, the Yizra’El Band and Lakou Mizik, the group of Sanba Zao, one of Haiti’s top percussionists and traditional singers.

The musicians were given 5 days to compose and rehearse the musical pieces that they’d play in the main square of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and broadcast live throughout the country.

The band featured 10 leading Haitian percussionists, Tony Allen, Mark Mulholland on guitar, Olaf Hund on keyboards, and Jean-Philippe Dary on bass.

Due to technical problems the concert was not recorded but Mark Mulholland had the multi-track rehearsal tapes and that’s where the material on this album came from. The vocals by Erol Josué, Sanba Zao, and the other singers were re-recorded and the pieces were mixed. The final product is a captivating set of Afrobeat rhythms from Nigeria and traditional and modern beats and chants from Haiti interlaced with jazz and electronica.

The complete album lineup includes Tony Allen on drums; Jean-Philippe Dary on bass and keyboards; Olaf Hund on keyboards and electronics; Mark Mulholland on guitar and organ; Sanba Zao, Wolele, Zikiki, Beauvois Anilus, Edmond Gera and members of Rasin Mapou de Azor & RAM on percussion; Erol Josué, Sanba Zao, Marc-Harold Pierre, Zikiki and Mirla Samuel Pierre on lead vocals; Zikiki, Marc-Harold Pierre, Wolele and Mirla Samuel Pierre on backing vocals.

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Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra is an instinctive, seductive and finely crafted celebration of African and Haitian music.

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Artist Profiles: Gangbe Brass Band

Gangbe Brass Band
Gangbe Brass Band

Gangbe Brass Band promotes the originality of the music of Benin combining an original mixture of jazz and Beninese traditional music: voodoo rhythms (Sato, Zinti, Ogbon) and songs in local languages (Yoruba, Fon Goun).

The Gangbe Brass Band was created in 1994 when 8 musicians, all from Cotonou-Benin, came together. These young jazz musicians had been playing in different groups, before creating this unusual fusion of traditional styles.

Gangbe Brass Band’s aim is to promote the originality of the music of Benin. The result is definitely both modern and traditional, as it mixes jazz and traditional Benin.

They take traditional rhythms, and invigorate them with jazz harmonies. The fusion reveals as much as possible of the musical tradition, while giving a western tone, to link the past and future. They sing in vernacular language about life in general, political injustices and the tribulations of women.

Through the word Togbe, the band salutes the music on which they build their sound. The first meaning of the word is ‘ancestor’, the band’s way of paying homage to the range and quality of the rhythms they created. The second is a reference to age, highlighting the ancient roots of the music they play.

Gangbe Brass Band
Gangbe Brass Band

The Gangbe Brass Band’s musical approach is respectful of tradition, and in harmony with their ancestors and culture.

From 1994 to 1997, the Gangbe Brass Band worked mainly in Benin. A year later, in 1998, their association called ‘The Union of Wind Instrumentalist of Benin’ took part in the Atelier Nomade of Alougbine Dine, a very famous artistic director. They composed a piece called La Fuite.

This meeting was very important as it enabled them to draw up artistic and political guidelines, and think about the values they really wanted to defend, things they want to talk about and the projects they could put in place. During this year, they played many concerts such as the Jazz Ouaga festival, and again at Bamako’s Festival du Theatre des Realites where they met the French group Lo’Jo.

Thanks to Lo’Jo and to Yves De La Croix, they recorded their first album called Gangbe and began an international tour of 35 concerts with them in 1999, playing in Europe and Canada, and another tour in Nigeria. They received an award at Benin Golden Awards, and took part in the first Nomad’s meeting, in Cotonou, and the Pan African of Jazz in Accra (Ghana).

In 2000, still supported by Lo’Jo Triban, they played on international stages, such as the Womad Festival in London, Jazz in St Louis (Senegal) and Lille 2000.

At the same time, they developed cultural projects for increasing awareness about Beninese culture, their main concern.

The first one Voodoo’s rhythms box received the support of the Benin Ministry of Culture. It consists of a collection of all Beninese ceremonial rhythms for a CD, and later a CD ROM, to be distributed in European art schools, and cultural institutions. The second one, called Horizon 2001 concerns regional, continental and worldwide cultural exchanges. It’s a European-African network for the organization of concerts between the Gangbe Brass Band and other guest artists.

The Gangbe Brass Band began working with Contre Jour in Brussels in 2001, recording their second album called Togbe. During the Summer, they promoted it through a new tour of 45 concerts, including high-profile festivals such as Musiques du Sud in Lebanon, Couleur Cafe in Brussels, Sfinks in Antwerp, Pop Komm in Koln, and Musiques Metisses in Angouleme (France).

In 2002, they were on the road in Europe during the Spring and the Summer and in USA in the Fall for some festivals (Bloomington, Chicago, New York).

In 2003, during their European tour, they recorded a new album (released in June 2004). During this year, they were touring in Europe and participated in a project with French Jazz Musicians for a Tribute to Don Cherry (presented at the Festival in the Desert in Essakane)

In 2004, the band released a new album, Whendo, and toured Europe. Assiko! followed in 2008.

The band released Go Slow to Lagos in 2015.

Discography:

Gangbé (1998)
Togbe (2001)
Whendo (2004)
Assiko!(2008)
Go Slow to Lagos (Buda Musique, 2015)

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