Sublime Frequencies Communiqué

Sublime Frequencies Communiqué


18 April 2015




 PO BOX 17971 SEATTLE WA 98127 USA

Baba Commandant 

& the Mandingo Band: Juguya

4 / 5

The names themselves are exotic: Ouagadougou, the Burkina Faso capital with a thriving underground music scene; the ngoni, a stringed instrument that is an ancestor of the banjo; “Ntijiguimorola,” a song as funky as its title. The Sublime Frequencies label releases music from faraway places with faraway names, and that faraway mood is a big part of the label’s draw. But one of the label’s most recent releases does not offer their usual field recordings with birds competing for sound space or vintage pop records recorded under compromised circumstances and pressed on bad vinyl. Juguya, the new album by Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band, is a professional studio recording with strong production values that blend traditional Mandingue music and electric instruments for an intensely funky Afrobeat sound.
Commandant was born Sanou Mamadou in Bobo-Dioulasso, which, after the capital, is the second largest city in Burkina Faso. Mamadou’s stage name suits a commanding musical leader, and his booming voice dominates the album, his dreads and menacing look a compelling visual signature for the music. But is he a figurehead? In a promotional video for the funky title track “Juguya,” you see Mamadou performing the long-necked, six-string ngoni, which adds a delicate texture to the solid rhythm section. Yet the music is dominated by another sound, its grooves breaking out not just with voices but with electric guitar. Simon Chenet and Issouf Diabaté split guitar solo duties on the album’s eight tracks. Frenchman Chenet achieves an electric trance with his solos, while the Burkinabé Diabaté is the more metal of the two. Yes, metal. This smoldering blend of traditional and modern African music sounds a lot like Fela Kuti cranking it up to 11.
“Tilé” opens the album with a funky guitar line before horns and call-and response chants come in over the simmering groove. This is a more condensed Afrobeat than Fela’s, topping out at six minutes instead of Fela’s typical half-hour pulse. I can only imagine how these songs expand in concert, developing into deep trances and even more incantatory solos.
Diabaté pushes “Folon” along with sludgy metal riffs, while the amps get turned down for “Siguisso,” which is the album’s most traditional-sounding track. Still, Mamadou’s booming voice makes it an intense piece. “Wasso” breaks out into a blistering guitar solo from Chenet, its rhythms shifting from sheets of sound to sharp, echoing wails and dropping out into an even more heavily reverbed drum and bass section that comes off like Afrobeat dub.
Juguya is a well-paced groove album, its rhythms based in Afrobeat but taking survey of American rock and funk genres and laying electric waste to them. The music is made of raw materials carefully mixed for sonic effect, like the rippling guitar figure that comes and goes on “Wasso.” French producer Camille Louvel, a champion of hip-hop and other musicians in Burkina Faso, worked on this album’s rich, modern mix with Colin Thevenin and Sublime Frequencies co-founder Hisham Mayet. The production elevates their dense sound without making it slick. If you ever wondered what the music of Konono No. 1 and other Congotronics artists might sound without the lo-fi trappings, get this album.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.