SummerSounds – Dancing the night away with MOJO

SummerSounds – Rotary Park Cranbrook B.C. Saturday 10th, 2019 8pm featuring the Calgary blues band MOJO.

Although the band works out of Calgary it has a strong connection to the East Kootenays. The singer/harmonica player Ethan Askey is originally from Cranbrook. The other members of the band are Danny Patton – lead guitar; Doug Boland – bass guitar and  John Jackson – drums. The band was the third on the list for the night and, despite a storm earlier, they were more than ready to deliver an evening of rock solid blues based music. To that end they primed the dancers in the audience with the old Fat’s Domino tune Ain’t that a Shame and followed that up with Let the Good Times Roll. That opened the flood gates for the dancers to do their thing and without any hesitation the area in front of the band stand was soon flooded with dancers. Apart from a short intermission break Ethan Askey and his band mates wailed their way though their blues-rock repertoire for over two hours. Other songs in their set lists included I’m a Lover Not a Fighter; Spooky; Let’s Dance; Shaking all Over; Shame Shame Shame; Tennessee Whiskey (a country song); Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan); Going to a Party; She Ain’t Never Coming Back;  A different version of Suzie Q; Use Me; Three Hundred Pounds of Joy; Brand New Cadillac and many more staples from the rock/blues repertoire. Ethan Askey’s wailing blues harp was the over riding sonic flavor of the evening with all member of the band  rock solid behind him. The bass player Doug Boland was an interesting study. He started out the evening being super cool. Not much movement there just solid backup riffs. But eventually the ol’ bass players performing genes kicked in and by the end of the evening, like most bass players, he was “romancing and dancing” with his bass in fine style. Maybe it was the addition of the hat and Bono glasses that kicked him to high gear.

Ethan is a home town boy who grew up going to school here in Cranbrook before going out into the wider world. His local knowledge, anecdotes  and stage patter cemented the perfect performer/audience relationship. It was pretty obvious that he had them in the palm of his hand.

 

           

Wayne Stetski M.P.

                       The SummerSounds program, organized by The Fisher Peak Performing Arts Society, has been running for a few years now and with each passing year the attendance  has steadily grown from a handful to what must have  been a several hundred very happy patrons on this particularly fine summer evening. The society, the volunteers and the many sponsors should be thanked for the considerable efforts that they put into presenting this continuing program of fine local musicians and musicians “from away”. On that note don’t forget the fine Argentinean keyboard player Gabriel Palatchi and his band who will be performing in the SummerSounds program on Saturday August 24, 2019. It promises to be an exceptional night of Funk, Jazz, Hispanic, Flamenco and New Tango with lots of dancing in the park. I have seen and heard Gabriel a number of times over the past 3-5 years and his music should not be missed.

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YouTube Pick (#35) Sona Jobarteh – Kora

African Kora music …… This is what the word “groove” was coined to represent ….that magic moment when everything is in total sync…..synergy…..This is the magic about African music, which is always there and only sometimes in other forms of music. As a multicultural ethnic percussionist, I have come to understand that this fundamental element, the groove, is the essence of African music, because it IS in every instrument, including the voice. I’m gonna go out on a limb to say, for me personally, there is nothing quite equal to the “groove” in African music. …..  Chandra Naraine’s comment attached to one of Sona Jobarteh videos.
Western music may have lost its grove but the groove is still out there in  …… Africa.

Some things you just have to be born into. Sona Jobarteh was born in 1983 into one of the five principal Kora-playing Griot families from West Africa – she is the first female professional Kora player to come from a Griot family (a Griot is a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician and generally a repository of the culture). She is the granddaughter of the Master Griot of his generation, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, cousin of the well-known, celebrated Kora player Toumani Diabate as well as the sister of the renowned Diaspora Kora player  Tunde Jegede – Wikipedia. Yes, she was born into the tradition but grew up in Britain and has studied the Kora from the age of three. She attended the Royal College of Music, where she studied cello, piano and harpsichord, and soon after went on to the Purcell School of Music to study composition. She also completed a degree at SOAS, University of London. She is fluent in Manding, and, above all she is a master Kora player. She gave her first performance at London’s Jazz Cafe when she was four years old, and has performed at festivals several times in her early childhood before going on to an extensive professional adult career.

And one may ask, what is a Kora?

“A Kora is a Mandinka harp built from a small Calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck. The skin is supported by two handles that run under it. It has 21 strings, each playing a different note. It supports a notched double free-standing bridge. It doesn’t fit into any one category of musical instruments, but rather several, and must be classified as a “double-bridge-harp-lute”. The strings run in two divided ranks, making it a double harp. They do not end in a soundboard but are held in notches on a bridge, making it a bridge harp. They originate from a string arm or neck and cross a bridge directly supported by a resonating chamber, making it a lute too. The sound of a kora resembles that of a harp. The thumbs are used to pluck the strings while the remaining fingers hold the hand posts and secure the instrument.. The music utilizes polyrhythmic patterns in Ostinato Riffs (“Kumbengo”) and improvised solo runs (“Birimintingo”) that are played at the same time by skilled players.”  – Wikipedia

Traditional Koras feature 21 strings, eleven played by the left hand and ten by the right. Modern Koras made in the Casamance region of southern Senegal sometimes feature additional bass strings, adding up to four strings to the traditional 21. Strings were traditionally made from thin strips of hide, for example antelope skin – now most strings are made from harp strings or nylon fishing line, sometimes plaited together to create thicker strings. A vital accessory in the past was the nyenmyemo, a leaf-shaped plate of tin or brass with wire loops threaded around the edge. Clamped to the bridge, it produced sympathetic sounds, serving as an amplifier since the sound carried well in the open air. In today’s environment players usually prefer or need an electric pickup. By moving leather tuning rings up and down the neck, a Kora player can retune the instrument into one of four seven-note scales. These scales are close in tuning to western major, minor and Lydian modes.

Below are two short videos with Sona playing a traditional Kora with leather tuning straps followed by one where she uses the more modern version utilizing Guitar tuning gears.

This following video is from a longer concert…….

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Elizabeth Shepherd and Michael Occhipinti at the HeidOut

Saturday, June 29th, 2019 – The HeidOut Restaurant in Cranbrook

Elizabeth Shepherd and Michael Occhipinti

I remember a conversation I had many years ago with the British Singer / Songwriter Martyn Joseph.  His home base was in Wales. I never thought of Wales as the center of British pop culture but he assured me that it was the perfect place to call home. A significant number of major British population centers are only a couple of hours away by car. In any given week he could play  as many gigs as he liked without the risk of saturating his audience with too many repeat performances. In terms of numbers he had access to a huge audience. Financial compensations were enough to cover expenses and provide for a reasonable income. The bonus is the ability to have a normal family life style.  For variety he could hop on a plane and do short tours into the major population centers of Holland, Germany or Denmark and not be away from home for any extended periods. By and large Canadian performers are not so lucky. By comparison the distances between population centers are  huge, weather conditions forbidding and audience numbers small (by comparison). Financial compensations often barely cover expenses and with all the touring family life must take a beating.  Case in point is this current tour by Elizabeth Shepherd (vocals and piano), Michael Occhipinti (guitar), Mark Nelson (drums) and Jon Wielebnowski (electric Bass guitar). To play the gig in Cranbrook they left Chilliwack first thing in the morning, drove all day, performed that night, then onto Calgary next day to catch planes back to Toronto and Montreal.

Both Elizabeth and Michael are heavy hitters on the Canadian music scene. Both have numerous academic qualifications, awards and Juno nominations. Michael is from Toronto and Elizabeth is from Montreal and both performers spend the better part of their life on tour. Mark is from Montreal and Jon is from Calgary. This current two week Western Canadian tour  included a dozen back to back gigs.

      

The drummer Mike Nelson is from Montreal and it was obvious from the first down beat that he is a well schooled musician. He obtained his University Music degree in New Zealand and with his deft use of brushes, sticks, shakers and mallets he comes across as a serious percussionist.There’s “no crash and bash” here. It is all a very controlled dynamic sonic landscape supporting the two soloists.

Jon Wielebnowski is “the new kid on the block”. Literally. This is his first significant tour.

The musical vibe of the evening was a pop/jazz mix that owes much to the complex musical world of jazz and the vocal sensibilities of the  rock/pop world. In among Elizabeth’s original songs there was a sprinkling of covers such as Leonard Cohen’s Marianne and Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time. As an aside, every time I hear that song I think of the 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously, staring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver and the brilliant Linda Hunt ……a must see film set in Indonesia in 1965. There was that quirky little original French tune Reine du Monde in the mix, the rollicking gospel inspired Doing the Good Lord’s Work, some Brazilian inspired (perhaps) vocalese, a brilliant version of the Beatles Blackbird and Bruce Cockburn’s I Wonder Where the Lion’s Are. In an ironical twist a deer wander by the window almost on queue. A movie script writer could not have written a better scene. Throughout all the music was Elizabeth’s funky keyboard offerings that, to my ear, seem to be influenced by the Cuban masters so lovingly explored by the Canadian Soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett. Her supporting musicians are masters in their own right. Michael Occhipinti is probably one of Canada’s most notable guitarists and his accompaniments and solos, as always, were fluid and seamless additions to music on hand. Michael and has been a frequent visitor to this area and will be back here for a SummerSounds performance in Cranbrook’s Rotary Park on Saturday July 20th, 2019. He will be a member of Lester McLean’s Funk/Soul outfit. The drummer / percussionist Mark Nelson is a new name to me but he is one that we will probably hear more of in the future.  He is a very, very tasty player. As I said above, the bass player Jon Wielebnowki is the new kid on the block and looks like he is fresh out of high school. This is his first tour. He was rock solid the whole evening. Here are some images from the evening……..
  

 

  

 

 

 

                        

At the end of “the show” the band kicked back  and played through some “off of the top of the head” material and gave the audience that had remained behind some fine jazz inspired explorations.

Last, and not least, thanks must go to the management and staff of The HeidOut Restaurant for their fine food, refreshments and their support of live music.  Also the fine contributions of local promoter Louie Cupello for his unending efforts to bring live music to the area.  Thanks Louie …. this ones for you …….

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Lonesome Jim at Soul Foods

For those who don’t know the venue, Soul Foods is a restaurant located in the old Mount Baker Hotel on Baker Street in Cranbrook. The manager is a keen supporter of live music and on most Thursday evenings (6-9pm) there are live musical events. A favorite event is the open mic hosted by Keith Larsen every first Thursday of the month. Recently (Thursday, June 20th, 2019), Lonesome Jim (aka James Neve) performed two sets featuring his vocals accompanied by his stellar acoustic 6 string and 12 guitar pickings.Never one to stand still for too long he was sporting his new and improved persona. The “Willie Nelson” pony tail was gone and has been replaced by  a new taunt, trim back and sides hairstyle. The looks may change but the performance, as always, was stellar. Here are couple of photos of the new Lonesome Jim.

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YouTube pick (#34) – “Get used to it” by Douglas Francis Mitchell

This is a rare treat. An opportunity to spread the word about an exceptional local talent. Douglas Francis Mitchell is an East Kootenay singer song writer with, to my knowledge, well over a hundred songs in his repertoire. There are new songs rolling off his counter top each day. He is a topical song writer with a great belief in the need for  artists to dip into what they know best. That is, the personal experiences, the work environments, and the relationships  in the world that surrounds us. He does not write “moon, June, spoon” songs of youthful love and loss. He does not write “hurtin’ songs”. Nor does he write songs full of youthful angst. That sentiment is long gone and there is much more weighty and comedic material around to feed his creative impulses.  What he does write are clear and honest songs about events and personalities that inhabit our world. One of his most recent efforts is Better get Used to It. This came about in response to the devastating fires of last summer. The sentiment is basically one of “It doesn’t matter which way you vote, Climate Change is no joke”. The song was recorded at James Neves’s studio out at Wycliffe. Doug sings and plays guitar, Rod Wilson provides the percussion and  the sound effects. The fiddle playing and back up vocals are by Ally Blake. Murray Hayward created the video……

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Dead Flowers – it’s a long way from Boston to Kimberley

Boston to Kimberley is a long way, but then again to travel from from Portugal to Goa, India, to Boston, to Calgary to Kimberley is even further. Victor Coelho, the dusky lead guitarist and vocalist  of the band Dead Flowers can trace his family connections all the way back over that route. One must applaud the dedication of the two “Right Coast” Boston musicians who came all the way to Kimberley to perform at the Jazz and Blues Spring Concert Series. The pedal steel guitarist Dan Beller-McKenna Victor left his home back East to catch the early flight from Boston to land in Calgary at two in the afternoon. There was time to hook up with Victor and a cadre of Calgary musicians to play an engagement that night. For Saturday it was the drive down to Kimberley for the concert then on Sunday the drive back to Calgary to catch another flight back to Boston in time for the working week. That’s what I call dedication to one’s art. For the Kimberley concert the collective was called Dead Flowers and consisted of Victor Coelho (Guitar and Vocals), Dan Beller-McKenna  on Pedal Steel Guitar;  Tommy Knowles (Calgary) Bass Guitar; Dave Morton (Calgary) Guitars and Vocals; Kenton McDonald (Calgary) Drums. This was a solid Rock/Blues outfit and their excuse to perform in Kimberley was to go “Rolling Through Stones Country”. This was not a Tribute Band. There was no light show, no fog machine, no pyrotechnics, no prancing rock stars, just five musicians paying attention to what they were doing and to hell with the usual arena “show biz” stuff. For them it was just an opportunity to explore the repertoire and musical associations of the Rolling Stones. During the night there was some fine rock staples, such as Honky Tonk Woman, I’m a King Bee, Tom Petty’s Falling and the socially incorrect Good Morning Little School Girl (would anyone dare write lyrics like that in this day and age?).  There was some Buck Owens Country music in the mix and, of course, the country music Classic Wild Horses. We sometimes forget that this song is an original by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. You can’t accuse the Rolling Stones of being just a bunch of pretty faces. Here are some images from another fine concert at the Studio 64 in Kimberley.

                                

Once again thanks must got to the organizing committee, the volunteers and the sponsors that make this wonderful series available to the people of Kimberley.

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A little side note – The music was straight ahead rock and roll but the two East Coast musicians have credentials that go way beyond the genre. Dan Bella-McKenna looked like an academic and, in reality he Teaches the history of Classical Music at the University of New Hampshire. He has a special interest in the Classical Music of the eighteenth and nineteen century. The obvious question is why the music of The Rolling Stones? and the answer is simple, he grew up with the music. What other reason could you have to play that music?

Victor Anand Coelho
Professor of Music & Chair, Musicology and Ethnomusicology
Director, Center for Early Music Studies
Faculty, American & New England Studies Program
Boston University
School of Music

He has a BA from Berkeley and a PhD from the University of California (UCLA). He has a special interest in Early Italian Music, performs and teaches Lute and has recorded and written extensively on his subjects of interest.

Now for a Blues / Rock musician doesn’t that beat all?

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Remembering John Renbourn

John Renbourn. Not exactly a household name in 2019 but back in the day (mid-1960s), his name was synonymous with the innovations in Acoustic Finger Picking guitar styles. That era was a hot bed of musical innovation for acoustic guitar players.  In the UK and Ireland the “folk music revival” of that time fostered interest in the American acoustic finger picking styles of the Rev. Gary Davis, Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotten, Dave Van Ronk, Joseph Spence, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Merle Travis and many more “roots” musician. Guitarists of today probably do not realize the extent of the volatility of the acoustic guitar scene of that era. Memories of that scene have been somewhat over shadowed by the explosive growth of the “British Rock and Roll” phenomenon and the electric guitar scene that followed shortly after. At that time acoustic guitarists were very fortunate to be exposed to the increased availability of recorded material, a huge number of touring folk musician legends, and a steady improvement in the quality of acoustic instruments. The acceptance of the guitar into the traditional folk scene was not immediate. The guitar was then considered foreign to the unaccompanied vocal traditions that were prevalent in the British folk clubs. However, a number of acoustic guitarists adapted the imported styles and created blends of techniques and musical styles to create new, unique ways of playing “folk music”. Innovators of the day included Davey Graham (the inventor of DADGAD tuning), Nic Jones, Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch and of course John Renbourn. Most of the innovators have gone and the only one still playing at the peak of his powers is probably Martin Carthy. Nic Jones is till alive but still suffering the effects of a catastrophic car accident. On March 26, 2015 at the age of 70 years John Renbourn passed away.

I was very fortunate to be in Banff on Thursday, September 26, 2001. I was coming off a back packing trip to Mount Assiniboine when I spotted a poster for a concert by John Renbourn at the Banff Centre. I was fortunate enough to land a seat no more than six feet away from John. I had smuggled in my camera and I managed to snap some illegal photos right at the end of the show. That was just before I was nailed by the usher. It was a small price to pay for the opportunity. Apart from the music the thing that struck me most about this master musician was how old looked. He must have been only in his late 50’s but he looked more like eighty. He did have a reputation for living hard and it showed when he shuffled on stage, sat down and had to physically hoist his one leg across his knee to support his guitar. That didn’t seem to impair his technical ability or his musicianship. It was a memorable concert and one that has come flooding back after viewing this attached video.

I think the video speaks for itself. There are some interesting anecdotes as well as demonstrations of John’s playing. Clive Carroll is a name that is new to me but obviously one deserving of attention. His playing ranks right up there with other modern masters and I am looking forward to hearing more of his work.

Also here is a video of John performing one of his iconic master pieces – SWEET POTATO

After viewing the videos I went looking for the photos I took on that night to add to this blog. They are buried deep in the masses of photos I have taken over the years and I have not been able to find them. But all was not lost. I did a search on the internet and lo and behold I came up with a link to my original article written at the time. So here are the photos ……

 

All in all it has been a nice reminder that there is more to guitar playing than strumming three chords.

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YouTube pick (#33) – Peter Emberley

I arrived in British Columbia, Canada in 1971, fell in love, got married and briefly moved to Halifax. While down East it was almost impossible to avoid the Celtic influence in Maritime music. The Irish expatriates, in groups like the Sons of Eiren and Ryan’s Fancy, while they recycled the songs and tradition of Ireland and Britain, they also infused their music with a healthy dose of local Canadian content. One song of note that I came across was Peter Emberley as performed by Ryan’s Fancy. Often the composer of Folk Songs are not known but in the case of Peter Emberley we know it was written by a Boiesetown, New Brunswick  farmer named John Calhoun. The song is the story of a young man born in 1863 in Alberton, Prince Edward Island . In 1880 when he was seventeen  he left Alberton to find work as a lumberman in the New Brunswick woods of the valley of the South West Miramichi.  In the winter of that year he was fatally injured at Parker’s Ridge while loading logs in a yard and he later died in Boiesetown. For over a century the song has been sung throughout Atlantic Canada and in the lumber camps of Ontario  and it has kept alive the memory and story of Peter Emberley. The melody is a variant of a popular Irish Ballad. The song spread further afield when Bob Dylan made free use of it in his  Ballad of Donald White. As a side note my paternal grandfather was killed in a similar accident in far away Australia in the early part of the 20th century so the song has a particular resonance for me. My father was five years old at the time and I never got to know my grandfather. The melody is a variant of a traditional Irish ballad and there a multitude of lyrics and versions out there but it is not well known around this area. May be it is time to change that.

 Here are a couple of versions of the song. The most recent version by the Wakami Wailers is particularly strong but The Ryan’s Fancy version is still my favorite. Strangely enough, to my ear,  Bob Dylan’s Ballad of Donald White sounds the most “authentic”. Go figure ………

 

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Lizzy Hoyt at Studio 64

 

Danny Boy ……. My favorite story about this song is the one told by a traditional fiddler in a concert at the Stage Door in Cranbrook. He had been busking in Toronto when some one came up to him and asked him did he know Danny Boy?

“Well yes I do”

“I’ll give you ten bucks to play Danny Boy”, and with that he dropped a ten dollar bill into the violin case.  The fiddler was not over enthused with the prospect of playing Danny Boy. It’s  an old favorite of mothers, grand mothers, Irish Tenors and Saturday night drunks and the fiddler had heard more versions than he could care to remember and he really didn’t want to be added to the list. However, ten bucks is ten bucks so he over came his hesitancy and launched into a heart rendering version of the old war horse. He thought he acquitted himself very well indeed, until the patron reached down and picked up the ten dollar bill.

“What are you doing? You wanted Danny Boy and I played it”

“Yeh, but I didn’t like the way you played it”.

That disgruntled patron should have been in the audience on Saturday night when Lizzy Hoyt closed out her concert with an unaccompanied encore of Danny Boy. It was outstanding !!!!!

Lizzy Hoyt in Concert – Stage 64, KimberleySaturday, March 23, 2019 – This is the second concert in the Spring Concert Series.

This is Lizzy Hoyt’s second trip to the East Kootenays. She was last here February 2016 to perform with the Symphony of the Kootenays at her World Premier of Canadian Folk Sketches. Lizzy on guitar, fiddle and vocals this time around was accompanied by Josh McHan on upright Double Bass and her long time guitar and Mandolin player Chris Tabbert.

From her bio…. “Lizzy Hoyt is one of Canada’s most powerful Celtic-folk artists. Known for bringing Canadian history to life with music, her songs like “Vimy Ridge”, “White Feather”, and “New Lady on the Prairie” that have garnered awards and nominations while also connecting strongly with audiences across the country. In 2013, Lizzy was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Governor General of Canada for her outstanding contribution to commemorating Canadian veterans and history through music.

       

Like her encore of Danny Boy the entire concert on Saturday night was outstanding. The group opened the evening with a set of foot stomping fiddle tunes followed by The Star of the County Down. In concert Lizzy offers the complete Celtic package from Fiddle tunes, well known ballads such as Out on the Mira (from Nova Scotia), The Banks of Loch Lomond and onto some original songs like New Lady of the Prairie, White Feather, and Vimy Ridge. Tucked into the mix was even the country classic Jolene. Each performance was a sparkling jewel of polished musicianship. The program choice was great, the accompanying musicians were spot on with great Bass playing by the Edmontonian jazz musician Josh McHan and Chris Tabbert playing his Russian Stalin Era Mandolin (he found in a junk shop amid a bunch of old accordions). Lizzy played and passed around her wonderful custom Collings guitar for Chris to use when she was playing fiddle. Her fiddle of choice for the evening was a Mezzo Forte carbon-fibre instrument. The only thing missing from the evening was her Celtic Harp  performances. Unfortunately the instrument was laid up and need of some repair.

Conversations in the audience indicate  that this was the best ever performance at Studio 64 and for that we should thank the organizers, volunteers and sponsors for all the dedication and good work.

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Bonus video:

Danny Boy – Lizzy with a nice guitar arrangement with moving bass lines

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YouTube Pick (#32) – Newen Afrobeat

Newen Afrobeat is an  Afrobeat band that started in 2010 in Chile. The word Newen means ‘strength’ in the Chilean Mapuche language. Afrobeat is the music genre that involves elements of West African musical styles, such as Fuji music and Highlife,  with American  Funk and Jazz influences. There is a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.  The term was coined by the controversial Nigerian political activist and bandleader Fela Kutii (15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997). Afrobeat is characterized by fairly large bands with multiple percussion instruments, including the the indigenous Shekere, keyboards, interlocking melodic West African guitar and bass guitar riffs, horn section and vocals. The overall sound is one of a riff-based “endless groove”. As with Fela Kuti, Newen Afrobeat uses the two baritone saxes in the horn section to add bottom end drive to the music.

Below are a couple of links to performances by Newen Afrobeat and like most West and Central African musical styles the rhythmic complexity and rhythmic drive is infectious.

If this music appeals to you check out the other African styles such as Soukous, Highlife, Juju, the Congalese Rhumba styles, etc; There is a whole world of African musical delights out there, and a lot of it is on YouTube, so go and enjoy. And, take note that without Africa there would have been no ragtime, no jazz, no blues, no calypso, no reggae, no Bossa Nova, and no rock and roll….etc. Basically no Western pop music as we know it.

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