Askari Afrobeat Orchestra 14th May 2011

Gig Details:

Band : Askari Afrobeat Orchestra

Venue : Devilles Pad

Date : 14th May 2011

On Saturday the 14th of May I performed with the Askari Afrobeat Orchestra at Devilles Pad in Perth, Western Australia.

This was the first show that this band has had since our February night at Kulcha and after blowing off some cobwebs at the sound check it was great to get back together with this great bunch of guys to play this high energy music to a packed out venue. I always find the energy this 13 piece band creates one of the most enjoyable experiences I have as a professional musician.

This evening presented some new territory for the band, usually performing as a part of Afrodesia, the band presents two sets over a three hour period but on this evening we only were booked to play one set. This proved a great change as we selected a variety of our high energy sets and ran many tight segues between songs ranging from music by Fela Kuti to Ethiopian Jazz and Afro Creole to even some of our own original songs performed in an Afrobeat style and arrangements.

Our set began at 10:30pm with the Ethiopian song “Muziqawi Silt” by Girma Beyene. The 3/4 groove laid down by the bass and guitars over the 4/4 puls of the drums sets up a fantastic groove for the horns to play the melody and then improvise over. Alistair McEvoy’s tenor saxophone created a great deal of tension and release which lead well into the melody being presented again with just drums and the horns. At the conclusion of this song the band proceeded into the tune “Kyentiyen Bi Adi Mawu”  this featured the vocals of Grace Barbe as well as solos from Jimmy Murphy on trumpet and Simon Montgomery on alto saxophone.

At the conclusion of this “Kyentiyen”  the band launched into the original song “Up to You”. This song, originally a soul song by Odette Mercy and her Soul Atomics has been arranged into an afrobeat style especially for this band. The song started by guitars launches into an open percussion solo featuring Shane Kearney on Congas and Djembe as well as John Brown on hand percussion. The entire band, lead by drummer Zen Fusion, saw the intensity move up another gear with the horn melody starting in unison and then moving to four part harmony between the trumpet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone. The solo for this song featured Alistair McEvoy on tenor saxophone, the 8/8 pulse from the rhythm section and the backing stabs from the horns provided the means for Alistair to be catapulted into an intense rhythmical barrage of fluid 8th note lines and high wails that kept the crowd moving on the dance floor.

The song “Mardillo” saw Grace Barbe retake the lead singer position. This tune, again in 6/8 features the rhythm section in a solo and floating introduction in a minor key. The band kick up into a medium fast dance tempo at the conclusion of the introduction with Grace bringing in the vocals which encourage the crowd to join in the dance in Afro Creole. I personally love the horn lines on this song, the use of harmony and the syncopation across the 6/8 feel creates such a light and playful feel that just makes everyone and anyone who has any sense of time and rhythm want to dance. The solo for this song was performed by Simon Montgomery on alto saxophone, the tonal qualities of the alto really suit this song with there being a great blend between a light playful feel and a bluesy wail.

The next tune, “Heaven”, commenced with a tight unison phrase performed by the whole band. After the rhythm section grooved on a vamp for a while the horns bring in a high energy melody that really highlights the use of call and response in African music with the trumpet stating the first part of the melody before being answered by the saxophones. Jon Fernandes, on keys, performed a blistering solo over the high energy groove being laid down by the rhythm section. The effective use of stops in this song, both in the melody and throughout the solo section created a great change in intensity and gave Jon more ideas to play off throughout his solo.

The entire evening was a fantastic success with the dance floor totally packed throughout the Askari high energy set. A huge thanks to everyone who came out to listen to us and enjoy a great night out. As we have always experienced at Devilles Pad, the energy and atmosphere created on the dance floor draws more out of us as performers.

Askari Afrobeat Orchestra

The Askari afrobeat orchestra is one of the bands I play in regularly around the Perth metropolitan area. We are a 13 piece band, yes that is big, that have been brought together by a common love for African music, particularly the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen.

Since forming in 2009 we have been the resident band at Afrodisia, this is a night promoted by Think Twice promotions which celebrates African Music, particularly the genre of Afrobeat. The Afrodisia nights started at Mojos in North Fremantle once a month on a Saturday before moving earlier in 2010 to being hosted at the Funk Club which is located upstairs at the Leederville Hotel. Afrodisia occurs the third Saturday of every month, the rest of the Friday nights at the Funk Club feature local, national and international acts in the Soul and Funk genres. On the 8th October the band get to support the inaugural visit of Mulatu Astatke and the 11 piece band “The Black Jesus Experience” at the Bakery in Northbridge. Multatu is considered to be the Father of the style of music known as Ethio-Jazz.

The band has largely been influenced by the music of Fela Kuti, considered the Father of Afrobeat, as well as Toni Allen and others including Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, Manu Dibango, Mulatu Astatqe, Franco Luambo Makaidi, Antibalas, Ebo Taylor, Alhaji K. Frimpong, the Daktaris, Orchestra Baobab, Sam Mangwana, Tabu Ley Rocheareau, Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Mahmoud Ahmed, Wallias Band in styles that include Afrobeat, Afrofunk, Highlife and Ethio Jazz.

The Askari are a local Perth band and comprise of 13 local Perth Musicians who work in numerous other bands across the city. The high level of skill and years of experience of these performers leads to a high energy and exciting evening of entertainment every time. Co-led by Jon Fernandes (Bass) and Jamie Searle (Guitar) the band features Grace Barbe (Neema) – bass, guitar, vocals. Ofa Fotu (Mrembo) – guitar, percussion, vocals. Rhys Bailey-Brooks (Kijana) – baritone saxophone. Jimmy Murphy (Madomo) – trumpet. Alistair McEvoy (Buzi) – saxophones. Simon Montgomery (Mtaalamu) – alto, tenor sax. John Brown (Anaondokaye) – sticks, shakere. Shane Kearney (Bingwa) – congas, djembe, talking drum. Zen Fusion (Kifimbo) – drum set. The regular band has also been joined at various times by many other musicians form in the Perth Music community for various shows.

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