Deciphering Culture

Posts Tagged ‘Afropop.org

Review: Watcha Clan, Live in San Francisco (@Afropop.org)

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It took a little while to post (and it will move to Afropop.org’s front page later this week) but here is my review of Watcha Clan at the finale of the 2010 Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco. And be sure to check out the links to Charming Hostess, the opening band that was truly astounding.

Watcha Clan, Live in San Francisco

Jeffrey Callen

Never judge a band by a single performance. The first time I saw the Marseilles-based Watcha Clan was in July 2009 at a small club in San Francisco and the performance fell flat. The songs lacked the moments of unpredictability that worked so well onDiaspora Hi-Fi, the arrangements felt hackneyed and stale. I left feeling Watcha Clan was just another electronic band that created interesting studio work but was out of its element live (check out my interview with Lado Clem of Watcha Clan on Afropop.org in 2009). I’m here to report that this is one of those times when I’m happy to be wrong. I saw Watcha Clan again on Sunday July 18, 2010 in a very different setting and they killed.

Watcha Clan, headlining the finale of the 25th edition of the Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco, turned in an exciting musical performance where, surprisingly, everything clicked. The staid, buttoned-down performance space of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is not an ideal setting for a “world & bass” band. YBCA books some interesting and innovative musical acts (just take a look at a fascinating installation by Oakland’s musical iconoclasts Charming Hostess) but it feels like what it is: a room tacked onto a museum. The lines of folding chairs set up in the room (for the rest…)

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Fat Freddy’s Drop: Live in San Francisco (@Afropop.org)

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Here’s my review of the best live show I’ve seen this year — published on Afropop.org today.

Fat Freddy’s Drop: Live in San Francisco

Fat Freddy’s Drop tore up the Independent in San Francisco on Friday, June 25. Soul drenched vocals and reggae riddims mixed with electronic effects, club beats and a killer horn section to create a fresh sound that is contemporary but deeply rooted in a diverse collection of black music styles that came of age in the 1970s. Funk, soul, reggae, ska, dub—sometimes straightforward, sometimes deconstructed—were not unexpected from an outfit that started out as a jam band. What was unexpected was that it all worked!

I was drawn to Fat Freddy’s Drop’s show by the song “Boondigga” (from their last album Dr. Boondigga and the Big BW), which had been firmly entrenched on my personal playlist for a month before the show. The song came early in the eighty-minute set so if things had bogged down or fell flat, I wouldn’t have second thoughts about cutting out and looking for a plan B but I didn’t leave until the show ended. Now back to the song that drew me to the show because I think there’s something in there that explains the appeal and brilliance of Fat Freddy’s Drop. “Boondigga” opens on a smooth soul groove, anchored by the sweet Philadelphia sounds laid down by the horn section and driven by a very ‘70s electronic drum track. Joe Dukie’s smooth vocals ride on top of the slowly building arrangement that does not gain its full power until after the break, three minutes in. A subtle shift in the horn chart brings in the more harmonically extended controlled dissonance that Tower of Power brought out of Oakland signaling the beginning of a major deconstruction of Boondigga’s smooth soul sound. The horns exit and a soulfully deviant aural soundscape is created from distorted guitar, swelling keys and electronics. Live the horn section left the stage at the start of the deconstruction, which was given twice as long to develop as on the album – a full four minutes. And that was true of the entire show: (for the rest…)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Review of King Sunny Ade at the Independent in San Francisco (Afropop.org)

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King Sunny Ade in San Francisco — review of King Sunny Ade in San Francisco in June 2009 and the re-release of Seven Degrees North.


Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 13, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Review of Melvin Gibb’s Ancients Speak (Afropop.org)

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Ancients Speak (published in Afropop.org in March 2009) — review of Ancients Speak, a journey by Melvin Gibbs’ Elevated Entity through the past, present and possible future of the “Black Atlantic continuum.”

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Review of Melvin Gibb's Ancients Speak (Afropop.org)

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Ancients Speak (published in Afropop.org in March 2009) — review of Ancients Speak, a journey by Melvin Gibbs’ Elevated Entity through the past, present and possible future of the “Black Atlantic continuum.”

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Article on Moroccan rapper Don Bigg (Afropop.org)

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Article on Bigg in the Moroccan press

Don Bigg Works the Room (February 2009 article on Moroccan rapper Don Bigg — published at Afopop.org)  – I interviewed Don Bigg in 2008 in Casablanca and he told me about his work and gave me a primer in Moroccan rap styles. Steeped in the history of hip-hop, Don creates music that is firmly rooted in Morocco without using Moroccan musical material (an approach that hasn’t worked for many others) and is one of the most significant voices as Moroccan hip-hop comes of age.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 11, 2009 at 10:58 pm

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