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Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang – Build Music (Luaka Bop, 2017)

Janka Nabay introduces the renovated sounds of a Sierra Leonean genre known as bubu music. It’s characterized by an intense, uptempo, trance-like irresistible beat that mixes acoustic percussion with modern electronics along with repetitive chants and Nabay’s expressive vocals.

Nabay currently lives in the United States, where he introduced his native sierra Leonean music to his bandmates, bassist Boshra AlSaadi and keyboardist Michael Gallope. “It has its own, very specific aesthetic,” says AlSaadi about bubu music. “The rhythms are different. The pocket is more subtle, where you decide to place the rhythmic emphasis is important. There’s a lot of nuance.”

Some tracks on Build Music are recreated versions of old songs Nabay had recorded in the 1990s. There is also a variety of Sierra Leonean “riddims” such as “Sabanoh” and “Bubu Dub” that were developed by collaborators back in Sierra Leone. Nabay normally uses Casio keyboards to emulate the sound of Sierra Leone’s bubu horns.

With Build Music, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang have introduced an urgently contemporary form of Sierra Leone’s bubu rhythm.