23 May 2006

Gangbe: 'Metal Sound' Brass Band

As a devoted world music fan, you know about Gangbe Brass Band, right? I mean, you've heard their great blast of horns and percussion. You know that they hail from Benin in West Africa. You know that their name is Fon for "metal sound" (and you know that that refers to the sound of the bell and the brass, not any inclination toward head-banging).

You know that the 10-piece band has a blast of sound with roots in West African dance music, French military band music, and New Orleans, with sprinklings of funk and Afrobeat thrown in.

What you perhaps don't know is that they played yesterday in Tacoma as part of the International Children's Festival. I made it to the final festival gig on a drizzly gray afternoon, and sat amid a gaggle of youngsters and teachers as the band tore through a 50-minute set. In the middle, they took time to introduce (via offstage translator) each of the percussion instruments to the kids.

Last time I saw Gangbe, I was most impressed with trombone player Martial Ahouandjinou, who really seemed to be a musical leader injecting energy into the performance. This time I was rivited by one of the percussionists, who I swear was looking right at me with a wry smile as he played "When the Saints Go Marching In" as a solo talking drum piece. It was a brilliant way to spend a damp afternoon.

[mp3] Gangbe Brass Band: "Noubioto"
from the album Whendo
buy Gangbe music as mp3s at gangbebrassband.spintheglobemusic.net

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