From Sierra Leone to Brooklyn: Janka Nabay

Feature

Friday, August 17, 2012

Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang (Courtesy of Big Hassle)

Janka Nabay calls himself “the Bubu king.” The Sierra Leonean musician took an ancient style of Muslim ritual music and transformed it into pop, using keyboards and drum machines. It’s almost impossible not to dance to its infectious, frenetic beat. The new style made Nabay a national star in his home country.

But after Nabay fled Sierra Leone’s civil war — he had become popular with the rebels, and he feared arrest — he fell into obscurity. A producer named Wills Glasspiegel found Nabay working in a fried chicken restaurant in Philadelphia, and convinced him to get back on stage. But instead of other Sierra Leonean players, Nabay’s new band is made up of Brooklyn-based indie rockers who call themselves the Bubu Gang. “I remember constantly being surprised by where Janka would decide to come in, or where his phrasing sat in a song,” says Bushra El-Saadi, Nabay’s back-up singer. “Musically, I was just like, what the hell is this? I want to try it."

The band’s debut album En Yay Sah just came out on Luaka Bop records. “It's not like a band covering music from Sierra Leone,” says label executive Yale Evelev. “It is really an invention of Sierra Leonean music and other musics — American musics, Brooklyn musics, whatever you want to call it — and it's seamless. It’s not something that’s a version of something.” But Nabay’s success is far from certain. Unlike many indie rockers, Nabay doesn’t have a financial safety net to hold him during the long slog of playing shows and trying to sell records. “Inshallah, I pray to God for things being better, because the musical struggle is too much for me,” say Nabay. “But I’m seeing it that sometime it’s gonna be. I don’t know when, but it’s gonna come.”

 

Bonus Track: Janka Nabay, “Feba” — from the album En Yay Sah


    Music Playlist
  1. Eh Mane Ah
    Artist: Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang
    Album: En Yay Sah
    Label: Luaka Bop
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Eh Congo
    Artist: Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang
    Album: En Yay Sah
    Label: Luaka Bop
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Ro Lungi
    Artist: Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang
    Album: En Yay Sah
    Label: Luaka Bop
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Kill Me With Bongo
    Artist: Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang
    Album: En Yay Sah
    Label: Luaka Bop
    Purchase: Amazon

Contributors:

Marlon Bishop

Comments [2]

Robert Nichols from Tampa

I have been jamming out all night to this afrobeat brilliance. And when my roommate came home we had a good little dance party to Nabay's nasty beats! :P Thanks for some seriously wonderful music!

Aug. 26 2012 11:12 PM
Ann Margaret from Baltimore

Hey! You should make me pay for this!
I had to pay $800 for a root canal! What the bleep?
Seriously, thanks a lot. I will look for and pay for more of Janka Nabay's music.

Aug. 18 2012 03:00 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.