Sunday, April 26, 2009

GANGBE BRASS BAND - Assiko (Contre Jour)

Benin's brass band blow up another storm with their latest tight and funky album. An exuberant combination of colonial military brass music and West African juju and assiko rhythms, Gangbé Brass Band manage to sound a whole lot better than their description looks on paper. Marrying joyously bright horns and syncopated rhythms - held down by a raunchy tuba bass beat - the spirit of this music is geared for dancing not marching.

It's a sound that could tend to sameness, yet sufficient influences abound to keep it all bubbling along, from vibrant trumpet lines that are reminiscent of the '70s Afro-Caribbean disco sound of Osibisa, through dramatic film-score flourishes (the excellent Sofada) to improvised syncopated beats that underlie soaring European folk melodies.
And although Assiko is largely instrumental, there's plenty of rousing call-and-response vocalising to infuse it all with a social, almost spiritual, feel.

It all comes together most agreeably on Un étè à Vodelée, which possesses a touch of Caribbean sunshine, some hard and heavy West African percussion, storming horn bridges and the merest hint of a mambo beat, all topped off with French (or French Antilles)-style accordion wheezing in and out of the gaps.
Upbeat, melodic, vibrantly rhythmic stuff.

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