Janka Nabay 12" EP reviewed by Tad Hendricksen

Music Reviews
Janka Nabay 12" EP reviewed by Tad Hendricksen
Mar 15, 2010, 03:38

Janka Nabay - Bubu King - EP

JANKA NABAY Bubu King 12” EP

Those who follow the news will remember that Sierre Leone on the West Coast of Africa had one of the most brutal civil wars of recent memory, lasting from 1991 to 2002 and displacing a third of the country's six million people and killing an estimated 50,000 of them. Both the corrupt government and the rebels (led by a military hunta that often also turned on itself) did terrible things trying to gain control of the country's diamond deposits, which is one of the richest in the world and a source for the so-called “Blood Diamonds” that were mined during the conflict and sold to finance more death and destruction.

So with this as a setting in mind, we have the Bubu music of Janka Nabay. Whereas fellow countrymen the Refugee Allstars of Sierre Leone took roots reggae and hip-hop and fused it with local styles and more generally Afropop, Nabay opts for a minimalist sound that melds rudimentary drum machines, basic samples and call-and-response vocals. Considering the horrors members of both outfits lived through, the sound of each is remarkably upbeat, but the tempos of Bubu, which is known at home as Muslim street music, are so fast that one wonders if all but the most hyper four-year-old or caffeinated dancer could last more than a song or two.

You can break a sweat just listening to the EP, but more than that it does offer a new perspective on African artists—vocals aren't all that strong and there isn't an abundance of musicianship typically seen in the African crossover acts. Nabay sort of comes off as a lighter and less clanky version of Congo's Konono No.1, which grabbed the ear of the non-world music types here in America a few years back with its homemade instruments, repetitive rhythms and overdriven amps. That Nabay is seeing his music released on an underground indie label indicates that this is hopefully how things will unfold for him, and that's certainly not a bad thing.

Interesting stuff in this small dose, but a 20-minute EP isn't enough to prove if Bubu music has legs here in the U.S. [True Panther Sounds]

-Tad Hendrickson


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