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Posts Tagged ‘Afro-beat’

 (Above: Hearts of Darkness are one of the biggest bands in Kansas City and a tough act to follow.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

As a live entertainment, hip hop has a bad rap (sorry). The genre’s main criticism – no one’s actually playing instruments – becomes especially acute onstage. While great MCs can deliver a stirring performance backed only by a DJ, the two-turntables-and-a-microphone set-up is the hip hop equivalent of going unplugged. The safety nets are removed and the MC’s skills (or lack thereof) are on full display.

Although he has brought a live band the past several times he’s come to Kansas City, Snoop Dogg decided to forgo live instrumentation for his performance Tuesday night at Crossroads KC. Backed by a DJ, trio of dancers, two hype men and three gentlemen whose job it seemed was to hang out onstage, Snoop delivered lethargic readings of his most celebrated hits.

Ironically, Snoop undermined his set by making fans wait more than an hour by listening to a playlist from his catalog. The rap stars belated appearance seemed almost superfluous in context. After listening to pre-recorded versions of his music for so long, having authentic vocals over more pre-recorded tracks didn’t seem that special anymore.

Stage problems also hampered the evening. During the first song, “I Wanna Rock,” the lighting rig gradually started lowering in front of the stage. Unfazed, Snoop and his ensemble continued to perform, nearly obscured. When it happened a second time, however, Snoop stopped the show and addressed the stage manager.

“Why does this (stuff) always happen when Snoop Dogg come on?” he asked.

A spate of hits, including “P.I.M.P.” and “Gin and Juice” got the crowd dancing, but the performance seemed like high-spectacle karaoke or an infomercial with a great chorus. With his DJ doing nothing more than cuing backing tracks and shouting over the songs, Snoop would have been better served dumping the entourage and hiring a live rhythm section to breathe some life into the numbers. Although the crowd responded enthusiastically, the result was nothing that couldn’t be easily found at any of the city’s best hip hop dance clubs.

Opening act Hearts of Darkness didn’t do Snoop any favors. The 70-minute set by the local Afro-beat ensemble may have carried on too long for casual fans, but the interplay between the group’s large horn section and several percussionists kept the crowd dancing despite the withering heat. A cover of Outkast’s “Spottieottiedopaliscious” blended well with the 15-piece band’s original material.

A half hour into Snoop’s set – and more than three hours after Hearts of Darkness took the stage – I succumbed to the weather and the hour and headed for home. The decision may sniff of Old Man Syndrome, but it turned out to be the right call: Snoop himself called it a night less than 30 minutes later.

The high point of the Doggfather’s set was watching the teenagers outside the venue, dance and party on dumpsters across the street so they could see over the fence and watch the rap celebrity. The group was having so much fun they even got a shout-out from the stage. But it’s hard to feel shortchanged when you haven’t paid anything in the first place.

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(Above: It will sound a lot like this at the Record Bar tonight when the Budos Band make their Kansas City debut. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets are $10.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

The covers of the three albums released by the ten-piece instrumental ensemble the Budos Band depict a volcano, scorpion and cobra. In other words, objects that are fascinating, even mesmerizing, from afar, but deadly serious up close. Like those totems, the Budos Band’s music can be appreciated, but rarely trifled with.

It is fitting, then, that the ensemble came together at the turn of the century during the Afro-beat revival lead by the New York-based combo Antibalas. Although inspired by – and sharing musicians with – Antibalas, the Budos Band developed a distinct voice.

“After a year or so of playing Afro-beat we refined our sound, brought in funk and soul influences and tightened things up,” said Jared Tankel, baritone saxophone player in the Budos Band. “That Afro-beat influence is still there, but our sound has progressed in different ways.”

While the band’s 2005 self-titled debut was a jumping off point from Afro-Beat to soul, Tankel said their second album – “Budos Band II,” released in 2007 – shows the emergence of Ethiopian jazz influences. That growth continues on this summer’s “Budos Band III.” The album’s darker and heavier undertones hint at the band’s rock and metal influences.

“It’s not explicit, but I think the undercurrent of that influence is there. It might influence our arrangements or approach,” Tankel said. “It’s still heavy funk and soul, but there is a darker influence.”

Although the textures and arrangements vary, Budos Band songs come together in a pretty straightforward process. Guitarist Tom Brenneck or bass player Dan Foder come in with a rhythm bed, or Tankel and trumpet player Andrew Greene develop a melodic horn line.

“Tom and Dan are in lockstep communication at a very high level,” Tankel said. “Whether they are coming up with something or building off it, a lot of ideas come from those guys.”

After the quartet refines the idea, it goes into rehearsal, where drummer Brian Profilio listens to the parts, suggests transitions and helps develop an arrangement. The song is then presented to the other half of the band – the percussion section.

“They really know how to keep in the pocket of the song,” Tankel said. “They’ve been playing together for so long they can really fall in together and give it the texture that makes it a Budos Band song.”

Just don’t expect that process to include a vocalist any time soon.

“That’s something a lot of people ask, but I feel we’re big enough with 10 guys (in the band),” Tankel said. “I feel this third album is our truest voice of what we have going on right now. I’m not sure a vocalist would fit. We’re having too much fun right now visiting all these exciting places musically on our own.”

Like every other album released on the Daptone label, all of the Budos Band’s output was recorded at the label’s House of Soul studio/headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. and produced by Gabriel Roth, aka Bosco Mann, leader of the Dap-Kings. As the band behind Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Daptone flagship artist Sharon Jones, the Dap-Kings have become a hot commodity.

“There is some competition between us and the Dap-Tones, but what we each do is different enough that the competition is somewhat limited,” Tankel said. “They’re on the path to stardom. We kind of enjoy being the scrappy little brother, still playing smaller size clubs and bars.”

The true competitive spirit lies in the band’s roots with Antibalas. The groups’ shared musicians over the years have lead to a healthy level of one-upmanship.

“At this point I don’t know if there are any shared musicians simply because both bands have become busy enough guys have had to decide,” Tankel said. “We’ll definitely hear something great Antibalas or the Dap-Kings come up with and want do it even better.”

Keep reading:

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Review Roundup – Rakim, Dodos, Naomi Shelton, Blakroc and Daptone Gold

Open wide for Mouth

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