Janka Nabay is the undisputed king of bubu, a frantically-paced dance music with ancient, magical origins in Sierra Leone. The Bubu Gang are the posse of musical collaborators he has hooked up with in the US to create a wild, high-octane juggernaut of call-and-response vocal interplay, juddering dancefloor rhythms, synths and guitars: throw in a taste for tearaway improvisation and you have an absolute blast of a sound, that keeps it quick, loose and natural and runs on pure musical joy. With Build Music, his second album on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label dropping in March 2017, Janka and the gang are ready to hit hard and true at festivals worldwide.
Janka single-handedly radicalised bubu in his native Freetown, Sierra Leone in the nineties, adding drum machine kicks and twitching synths to its airy hum of blown bamboo shoots and carburetor pipes. Then he relocated to Philadelphia, and after a decade off the musical radar he found a Stateside vessel for his infectious music in True Panther Sounds, who released a well-received EP in 2010. This caught the well-tuned ears of the mostly Brooklyn-based players who would go on to make up the first incarnation of the Bubu Gang, namely Doug Shaw (Gang Gang Dance, Highlife, White Magic), Jason McMahon & Jonathan Leland (Skeletons), Michael Gallope (Starring) and vocalist Boshra Al-Saadi: En Yay Sah, the effervescent debut LP on Luaka Bop, followed along with a series of sweatbox US shows, and all involved realized they had birthed something beyond the sum of its parts.
For Build Music, Nabay decided to shift his approach to recording, harking back to his ‘90s Freetown cassette recording roots, built on a foundation of multi-tracked drum machines, Casios, and samplers in collaboration with producer Matthew Mehlan (Skeletons, Congotronics vs. Rockers) and musicians including Syrian-American singer-bassist Boshra AlSaadi (TEEN, Saadi) and keyboardist-musicologist Michael Gallope (IE, Skeletons, Starring).
The result, as borne out by the thrillingly kinetic live show that’s about to career across Europe for the first time, is a bubbling Bubu cocktail with Nabay as mixologist.
“In a potted history of Bubu music, the horn-fueled traditional sound of Sierra Leone, Janka Nabay’s arrival is the defining moment. There is the pre-Janka era, when bubu was played by five tribes in the country’s north and could only be heard on one holy day a year, during Ramadan. But in the post-Janka landscape, young people from Sierra Leone to Liberia are jamming bubu bangers in the club every weekend” – The Fader
“There was also an African apparition: Janka Nabay from Sierra Leone, wearing a straw skirt and singing and dancing to recorded tracks of what he said was a 500-year-old tradition called bubu music. The tracks were modern, and the beat, fast and skeletal and driven by bell taps, was unstoppable, demanding wider dissemination” – New York Times
No shows booked at the moment.