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Occidental Brothers Dance Band International - Occidental Brothers Dance Band International

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Artist: Occidental Brothers Dance Band International

Album: Occidental Brothers Dance Band International

Label: Occidental Brothers

Review date: Mar. 28, 2007

The Congotronics crew plays what goes down in Kinshasa now, but there’s a rich history behind their music. Since African audiences don’t seem to follow the cycles of rediscovery that North Americans afford their older popular styles, it falls to a band from Chicago to revive the sounds of ’60s Congolese rumba and high life.

The Occidental Brothers Dance Band International is lead by Nathaniel Braddock, who also plays guitar for the Zincs, Ancient Greeks, and Edith Frost, and teaches African guitar styles at the same joint where Roger McGuinn once learned how to play banjo. Alto saxophonist Greg Ward comes from the jazz side of the tracks; you can hear him with Loose Assembly, Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, and Ernest Dawkins’ Chicago 12. Neither the stand-up bass player nor the hand drummers who round out the combo on this record (which was recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studio) are African. And yet the band sounds pretty persuasive.

Braddock’s leads on “Ana Masi Ife Uwa” wing away from the swaying grooves like herons lifting away from water, bright and joyous, yet unhurried. On the same tune, Ward plays more sweetly than he does in other settings, stowing the fire he usually stokes in order to reach for some yearning, bright-toned soul.

The Brothers aren’t really sticklers for geography; the record’s most buoyant moment comes on “Nyarai,” by Zimbabwean Thomas Mapfumo, and they’ve recruited a Ghanaian singer and trumpet player since this record was recorded. But they don’t really need to be; it’s a treat to hear this music played at all, let alone with such love.

By Bill Meyer

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