Janka Nabay: The King Of Bubu Music
Hot rhythms and beats with freaky—nearly-retro—electronic sound-scapes. Tropical vibes aplenty from this refugee artist from Sierra Leone offering nice fleshed-out African vox and call-and-response BGVs. This is definitely chill music for those willing to expand their musical palette and simple enjoy the bumpy ride down the mostly unpaved roads connecting the plateau to the mountains. I first tasted African fusion music with some of Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel‘s work as well as Afro Celt Sound System.
Janka Nabay is the king of Bubu music. That style has old roots in Muslim Sierra Leone, but it’s come to life recently in the clubs of Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as on a new album called En Yay Sah.
Sierra Leone is a good place to invent a music style: It has 16 ethnic groups, a Muslim majority and a large population descending from freed American slaves who returned to West Africa after the Revolutionary War.
The original Bubu music is a product of Islam in Africa, with processional chants and rhythms with ties to ancient African culture, but also to Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Janka Nabay gained attention when he transformed Bubu songs he recalled from his youth into modern pop. Nabay’s hypnotic mixes began circulating around Sierra Leone on cassettes, and a new Bubu music underground was born.
Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war in the 1990s complicates the Bubu story. Nabay’s songs sought to remain above the fray, but when rebels began using them as a soundtrack to village raids, Nabay was forced into exile. He left home unwillingly, and it took time for him to find his footing in Brooklyn. But in the past two years, Nabay has built a band fit to bring Bubu music to an international audience.
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