I happen to live in an area of the country that is rather optimistically dubbed “The Sun Belt,” but whoever gave it that name has never spent a February in North Carolina. We are in the cold, gray days my friends, and Punxsutawney Phil has forsaken us. Thank God, then, for the sunny sounds of Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band to carry us through these dire times. Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band (henceforth BCMB) hail from Burkina Faso and play a heady brew of Afrobeat and folk music rooted in the Burkinan tradition. Their bouncy jam “Juguya” makes you want to dance until you can’t feel your feet anymore, but it’s not just fun and games: there’s plenty of grit to go around.
On “Juguya,” Baba Commandant alternately croons and howls his way through waves of dense funk, his voice shifting back and forth like a nimble reveler threading their way across the dance floor. His donso ngoni, a traditional West African hunter’s harp, skitters underneath the electric instrumentation, giving the song’s monster Afrobeat funk a delicate skeleton upon which it ceaselessly dances. Towards the song’s conclusion a saxophone cuts in and picks up speed, racing pell-mell onward to collapse at the finish line, utterly spent. It’s a sentiment anyone who listens to this track can appreciate. Sublime Frequencies is slated to release the JuguyaLP in late February. I think I speak for all my fellow stir-crazy, frozen-ass Sun Belters when I say it can’t come soon enough.