Too Live Krewe

Toubab Krewe mixes it up at Waiting Room

Having sharpened its teeth performing at festivals the world over, including Tennesse’s Bonnaroo, California’s High Sierra and Africa’s Festival au Desert, Toubab Krewe has captivated a devoted and growing fan-base through intriguing melodies, eclectic instrumentation and inspired improvisation. Having formed in 2005 in Asheville, N.C., most of the band’s members have since traveled throughout Mali, Guinea and Ivory Coast studying and playing music. And while the sound is heavy on African influences, it’s what Toubab adds to that sonic stew that makes the whole darn thing so delicious. With a nod to western sounds like classic rock, bluegrass and jazz, Toubab has managed to become one of today’s hottest touring fusion acts. And much like their hybrid sound, the band’s name is a fusion of cultures: “Toubab” means “foreigner” in Mali’s Bambara language and “Krewe” is a nod to New Orleans. “I naturally became interested in hand drums because we had drums in the house when I was growing up,” drummer Teal Brown says. “Then I joined a drum club when I was at Warren Wilson in college and became interested in studying African drums. I first went to Guniea in 1999 and from there on my interest really stemmed from drumming music. After that initial interest in the drumming part of it we all kind of became more interested in the melodic parts of West African music. Once we started soaking all of that in we were able to apply it to more of a traditional western rock band set up. You know, at first we stuck to the tradition pretty closely but as we started improvising more and more we were able to add our own breaks and melodies.” The band’s latest studio effort, TK2 , out last year on Nat Geo Music, is a shimmering amalgamation of Toubab’s obvious love of African melodies and drums with a touch of pyschedelic exploration, classic rock build and release, and the jammy jazz of The Big Easy. And while West Africa’s kora and kamel ngoni, both stringed instruments, often provide the lead as far as melody goes, the sometimes-surf-like electric guitar and 12-string acoustic guitar offer both a familiar anchor and a gritty edge. And while this kind of vision may be too broad for most bands to perform without derivative and extraneous clutter, Toubab manages to perform with a confidence and swagger which makes this new sound feel like an old hat in the hand’s of seasoned masters. “The new record TK2 was mostly written in the studio which was something kind of new for us,” Brown says. “After you play songs live hundreds of times they kind of take on a life of their own. But this time around we just took single ideas, like a break or a melody and let them evolve. Everyone added their own little part to it and that’s how we wanted to do this record.” As Brown is quick to admit, the band’s lack of vocals and focus on tight, musically difficult arrangements may very well keep it from achieving any sort of “mainstream” success, but the band has already been fully embraced by the jam band scene and summer festival circuit. The improvisational nature of Toubab’s live shows, along with the original and funky rhythms and grooves the band plays should keep them trucking well in the foreseeable future. “Festivals, that’s our favorite time of the year,” Brown says. “You get to play outside and everyone is away from their worldly attachments and has made time to be there. It’s awesome. And the jam band crowd [is] some of the most dedicated fans out there. Our music obviously takes a lot on the listeners part and most of the jam band scene are really into listening deeply and taking an active part in the show.” Toubab Krewe w/ Blue Martian Tribe plays The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St., Thursday, Jan. 13, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12. Visit radkadillac.com.

posted at 08:37 pm
on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

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