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Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang

An Letah

(True Panther Sounds; US: 20 Mar 2012; UK: Import)

Ahmed Janka Nabay comes from Sierra Leone, where he modernized and popularized a form of music anciently associated with Temne religious processions. Bubu music, he says, used to be played on pipes and flutes. Now it is mixed with other ideas, played on guitar, keyboard, and other instruments. The spiral dance rhythm of An Letah lets you know we’ve got our toes in West Africa, and the implied hoot of the echoing keyboard might be the residue of those pipes from the past. The rhythm goes forward, the hoot steps in to make it pause. Hop-stab, hop-stab, it’s a tease, can’t go forward, can’t go back, trapped, thrilling. Nabay himself, singing, strides free of that vibrating cage. An Letah is his New York version of the sound—he’s migrated. Now everything is faster than it used to be, the choruses of women have gone from relaxed to urgent, bubu’s turned turbo, though still acoustic. This three-track EP is an appetizer. Expect a full-length album somewhere around mid-year, if you’re in the US.


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