Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang / « Back

  • Janka Nabay Concert

Sierra Leonean Janka Nabay has come a long way to share his bubu music with the world along with his band of Brooklyn indie experimenters—featuring members of Les Rhinoceros and Cheick Hamala Diabate’s DC band. Their current shows feature some new songs as well as material from Nabay’s first full-length album in the West, En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop, August 2012), which Pitchfork called a “powerfully modern, cosmopolitan introduction to [bubu’s] complex and vibrant rhythms.” Nabay is the undisputed king of “bubu music,” frantically paced dance music from Sierra Leone. Nabay exclaims: “All I am about is making history,” a modest goal for someone who revived a fading musical treasure, made it big back home, escaped war and chaos, and still managed to write and play songs while working at American fast-food fryers. Nabay’s bubu music may sound utterly hip and futuristic to American ears, but its history spans centuries. The original bubu is cloaked in mythology: according to Nabay, a young “bubu boy” took it from witches 500 years ago and brought it to the public at large, sacrificing his own life in the process. When Islam reached Sierra Leone, bubu became a part of indigenous processionals during Ramadan. This is the music Nabay learned and perfected as a child. As Nabay says, “Bubu is an old, old music, but people don’t know about it. You can add new things into the beat if you know it really well, and make your own sound out of it.”

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