Bubu Strikes Back
When Sierra Leone’s “King Of Bubu” Janka Nabay first emerged from exile and obscurity circa 2010, he never expected to become an accidental hipster icon. It was a coincidence that Janka’s classic recordings of Muslim trance music, re-released by True Panther Sounds as the Bubu King EP, were in perfect harmony with current indie trends: untamed electronic beats, lo-fi digital keyboard patches, and detached vocal stylings.
This March, True Panther releases Janka’s first new recorded material in a 3-song, limited edition vinyl EP titled An Letah. And the result is stunning. Supported by a cast of young Brooklyn musicians, Janka’s bubu takes on yet new dimensions. There are still electronic claps and bells popping out in the off-kilter, hyper-syncopated beats, but now they are joined by harmonized guitars soaked in just the right amount of reverb and Fela-esque organs playing rambling solos. There’s ambient fuzz and war whoops and birdsong samples, all beautifully recorded and mixed.
The end result is a kind of reverse Graceland, where the African musician takes center stage (and creative control) and the tribal musicians of cool-kid Brooklyn lend their culture’s exotic cultural seasonings to his music.
An Letah is just a tease for a full-length album of Janka’s original material, due out in June on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop records.