Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang, Natural Information Society, Jamaican Queens | Empty Bottle | International | Chicago Reader

Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang, Natural Information Society, Jamaican Queens Free Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Mon., July 30, 9 p.m. 2012

Sierra Leone expat Janka Nabay, who's now based in Philadelphia, calls himself the "king of bubu music," and it's hard to argue. As far as anyone knows, the ancient ritual music of the country's Temne population—used during Ramadan processions and traditionally played by masses of people blowing on cane or metal pipes—had never been recorded until he did it. To distinguish himself from his rivals in a Freetown music contest in the mid-90s, he drew upon on bubu's skittering, high-velocity rhythms; his performance caused a sensation, and before long he was a local star. After fleeing his war-torn homeland for the U.S., he eventually hooked up with a crew of Brooklyn indie-rock musicians, and they helped him make a 2010 EP for Matador subsidiary True Panther. On August 7 the same band will release its first U.S. album, En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop). Jonathan Leland and Michael Gallope (both members of Skeletons) help give the music a neo-80s feel with electronic percussion and retro synthesizer tones, and Douglas Shaw (White Magic) adds fluid, exploratory guitar. The overall sound—with the traditional pipes represented by synth voices if at all—recalls the bubbly, plasticized aesthetic of the worldbeat era, when international styles were first jiggered to conform to Western pop-­production tastes. But between Nabay's grainy, avuncular singing—shadowed by Boshra Alsaadi's harmony vocals—and the band's dubby flourishes, it's easy to ride away on the buoyant grooves. —Peter Margasak  A

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