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No Cover: The Bubu King Janka Nabay

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Bubu King recently played his catchy synthesized folk bamboo pipe music at Le Poisson Rouge with a seven-piece band.

Before You Press Play

Hometown: Freetown, Sierra Leone

The Facts: Ahmed Janka Nabay is a bandleader from Freetown, Sierra Leone of Mandingo and Timini descent who is considered the “King of Bubu Music.” Janka has sold thousands of cassettes in his native country and played with an 11-piece band before his country’s brutal civil war put his life in jeopardy. He fled from war to Philadelphia in the late-'90s before landing recently in New York City.

The Sound: In the mid-'90s, Janka helped resuscitate a Sierra Leone indigenous folk music called “Bubu” that he heard as a young boy at his family feasts. Traditionally played on bamboo shoots, pipes, shakers, triangles, and large wooden boxes, Janka updated Bubu’s sound with synthesizers, drum machines, brisk dance beats and socially conscious lyrics (listen for the “John Kennedy” references on “Eh Congo”). The sound recalls elements of Haitian rah-rah, Detroit Techno and Brazilian Baille Funk. At Le Poisson Rouge, he debuted his seven-piece band which helped bring to life the music from his excellent 2010 “Bubu King” E.P.-- the first ever Bubu album released in the west.

Latest Release: Bubu King, (2010) True Panther

He Said/She Said: "There was also an African apparition: Janka Nabay from Sierra Leone, wearing a straw skirt and singing and dancing to recorded tracks of what he said was a 500-year-old tradition called bubu music. The tracks were modern, and the beat, fast and skeletal and driven by bell taps, was unstoppable, demanding wider dissemination." -- Jon Pareles, New York Times

"In a potted history of Bubu music, the horn-fueled traditional sound of Sierra Leone, Janka Nabay's arrival is the defining moment. There is the pre-Janka era, when bubu was played by five tribes in the country's north and could only be heard on one holy day a year, during Ramadan. But in the post-Janka landscape, young people from Sierra Leone to Liberia are jamming bubu bangers in the club every weekend." -- Chioma Nnadi, The Fader

Set List:

1. Bubu Dub (instrumental)
2. Eh Mane Ah
3. Top Sulbah ftr. Bajah and the Dry Yai Crew
4. Eh Congo

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