Friday, February 11, 2011

The Budos Band and Fela (OK, mostly Fela).

I take a lot of stock in music suggested by my friends.  Clearly, I don’t run out and immediately purchase everything that people tell me to check out.  If something seems like it may be interesting, however, or aligns with something else I am listening to, I will definitely put it on my ridiculous and ever-expanding Amazon wish list.  If the stars align properly, a suggestion will eventually find its way into my player, sometimes months or even years later.  For example, the “subject under study” on this post, The Budos Band, came up on my Facebook feed in December, I believe,  They caught my ear, and, following this process, I discovered the album “Budos Band III” sitting on the shelf at one of my new CD store haunts, End of an Ear.

Now, the reason that The Budos Band caught my stubborn ear so readily is due to the obvious tribute they pay to Fela Kuti.  I threw out his name off-handedly in a previous roundup, but if you are not familiar with Fela, I would check him out right away.  He was a socioculturally fascinating Nigerian musician and the desire to sum up his life story here is nearly irresistible.  There is, however, a really great documentary on Fela called “Music is the Weapon” that is worth sitting through.  I think the whole thing is up on YouTube now, but here is an excerpt.

Fela created a style of cross-pollinated African popular music he called “Afro-Beat,” characterized by extended polyrhythmic grooves and improvisation (among other things).  Fela released a ridiculous number of albums in this style between the 70s and the late 80s, but if you want a place to start, get the album “Zombie” and go from there.  There is something about that particular album that is unique.  From there it is up to you, because if you like one of his albums, you will probably like all of them.  For better or worse, they are more of the same, although he did lose a little focus in the late 80s (probably due to all of the beatings he received from Nigerian police).  Even so, I get a new album from him every now and then and I have rarely been disappointed.

Now, back to the Budos Band.

Although there is also a “voodoo mariachi” menace lurking about in the Budos Band’s work, the presence of pulsing ostinato grooves and hyperaggresive unison horn lines clearly indicate to me the influence of Fela’s Afro-Beat.  Additionally, and obviously, if you have ever come within 50 feet of a bari sax, “Budos Band III” no-brainer.  This guy's name is Jared Tankel, and he gets that thing to bark just like that all throughout the album.  He’s also an impressive soloist, which, as a bari sax player, takes a specialized understanding of the instrument’s unique potential to execute well.  Transcribing classic bebop or John Coltrane’s soprano work won't necassarily provide that on its own (although it doesn’t hurt).

But I digress....

“Budos Band III” also shares the consistency of Fela’s work.  If you like “Black Venom,” you will probably like the whole thing (although I have to say I am not particularly behind the bizarre minor-key “Day Tripper” cover, “Rippert Yad”).  I don’t know if it will grow to be a personal classic or anything that dramatic, but I have been enjoying it this week as I burn up the road between San Antonio and Austin during TMEA this year.

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