APRIL 29:
Last year, Luaka Bop released a compilation of the songs of William Onyeabor—Nigerian electro-funk musician, who created music throughout the 1970s and '80s. The album received a lot of press—and rightfully so! It's been a dream to put together a band that could bring Onyeabor's music to life—and Luaka Bop, under the direction of Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab, has done it! This week, I, along with Alexis Taylor, Pat Mahoney, Kele Okereke, Luke Jenner, Dev Hynes, Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters and Sinkane, will do just that—starting tonight with a trip to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon!

We arrived early this morning for sound check and rehearsal.

During our lunch break, the Lijadu sisters invited everyone into their dressing room for—SURPRISE!—a huge home-cooked spread, made especially for the Fallon crew. (Luckily, there was enough to share with us performers.)

So, tune in tonight for a sneak peak of what's to come during our shows in Brooklyn, San Francisco and Los Angeles (more info and ticket links for those dates below).

APRIL 30:
UPDATE: This was fun!

“ATOMIC BOMB” is an amazing ever changing and evolving, all-star lineup of artists performing the futuristic, synth-heavy, electronic Afro-funk of the great West African synth pioneer, William Onyeabor. Added on top of a core band made up of Sinkane, Money Mark and Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem) are guest performers like Damon Albarn, David Byrne, Joshua Redman, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Luke Jenner (The Rapture), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), The Lijadu Sisters, Ghostpoet and many more. The fact is this project is open ended enough to incorporate almost any artists (wanna sing?).”

Tickets & Line-Up

May 2 & 3 at BAM, New York City
David Byrne, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Luke Jenner (The Rapture), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Devonté Hynes (Blood Orange), Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters & Sinkane

May 6 at The Warfield, San Francisco
David Byrne, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters & Sinkane

May 8 at The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles
David Byrne, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters & Sinkane

MAY 6:

The two William Onyeabor shows we just did at BAM went spectacularly well! Props to Ahmed (Sinkane) for being such a wonderful MD (musical director) on these shows. What are these shows? A band and a variety of singers cover the songs of William Onyeabor, an eccentric African artist who released some records in the 70s and 80s that sound like nothing else, really. That's the concept... then it explodes! The audience in the (seated) opera house (!) was up and dancing by the second song... and they never sat back down. Four drummers playing killer afro-punk grooves anchored the band, so much so that one almost didn't need more instruments on top for the groove to be killing! That said, there were a lot!

Tuesday we're in San Francisco at the Warfield and Thursday at the Greek in L.A. Wear comfortable shoes... Seriously.

Here's everyone who was involved:

Ahmed Gallab – lead vocals, keys, guitar
Jay Trammell – drums
Ish Montgomery – bass, backing vocals
Jonny Lam – guitar, keys, backing vocals
Pat Mahoney – drums
Money Mark – keys, guitar
David Byrne – lead vocals, guitar
Alexis Taylor – lead vocals, keys
Devonté Hynes - Lead vocals
Luke Jenner - Lead vocals
Taiwo Lijadu – lead and backing vocals
Kehinde Lijadu – lead and backing vocals
Joshua Redman – sax
Lekan Babalola – percussion
Kofo Wonderman – percussion
James Walton – sax
Jordan McLean - trumpet

SKATERS:
Leroy James
Aretha Johnson
Joey Pagan
Danuta Zakrzewska

DANCERS:
Andrew "goofy" Saunders
Randy "kidthewiz" Vargas
Damien "LaLo" Morales
Kyle
Johnothan "JohnO" Williams

Thanks to Jonny Lam for providing the photobomb evidence! (Click or swipe to see all photos in the gallery.)

MAY 7: SMOOTH AND GOOD
A couple of days ago we did two nights at the opera house at BAM performing the songs of William Onyeabor, an eccentric and truly wonderful African musician. Those shows were spectacular. Yale and Eric from Luaka Bop did a wonderful job putting this concept together as did Ahmed, whose band Sinkane forms the core of the performing band.

Ahmed and crew had the BAM audience on their feet and dancing by the second song! Quite an achievement for an opera house.

Here is a list of the musicians in this giant band that played at The Warfield in San Francisco last night, and where they come from:


Ahmed Gallab (Sinkane) – lead vocals, keys
Jay Trammell (Sinkane) – drums
Ish Montgomery – bass, backing vocals
Jonny Lam – guitar, keys, backing vocals
Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem) – drums
Money Mark - Keys, backing vocals
David Byrne – lead vocals, guitar
Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip) – lead vocals, keys
Kele Okereke (Bloc Party) – lead vocals
Taiwo Lijadu – lead and backing vocals
Kehinde Lijadu – lead and backing vocals
Joshua Redman – sax
Lekan Babalola – percussion
Kofo Wonderman – percussion
James Walton – sax
Jordan McLean (Antibalas) - trumpet

Here in SF, Yale arranged for Cecil Williams to “introduce” the show with some inspiring words. (At BAM it was a street preacher with a battery-powered amplifier.) Onyeabor is seriously devout—he abandoned pop music for Christian music, and even some of these earlier songs mention God or Jesus and have serious moral messages. Those messages are a big part of what some of us like about this material. While I may have sung Fantastic Man on Fallon many of the other songs are about holding on to core values and treating one another fairly.

Which brings us back to Cecil Williams. Yale (in blissful ignorance) didn’t exactly know Williams' full legacy in the Bay Area. Williams came to the Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin district here (a rough area), to join other ministers determined to bring life back into the dying congregation. Glide Memorial Church was initially founded in 1929 by Methodist philanthropist, Lizzie Glide. I have been a couple of times, on previous visits to SF. It’s not a traditional church by any means—it comes out of the era in which it was brought back to life (late '60s) and Williams preaches a non-denominational spiritual message of empowerment, equality, justice, and peace for all. (His opening remarks at the Onyeabor show were along those lines—very powerful and inspiring.)

From Wikipedia:
In 1967, Williams had the cross removed from the church's sanctuary, saying it was a symbol of death and that his congregation should instead celebrate life and living. "We must all be the cross," he explained.

The church is active in many social causes—gay rights, AIDS, domestic violence, and homelessness (more on this last one below). The church often incorporates slide shows in the Sunday services—maybe a legacy of psychedelic light shows, but with much more inspirational content. Jesus is never mentioned; rather, Williams' message is for all, and it has been a beacon in that community for decades. I was thrilled to meet him.

The Lijadu Sisters interrupted their portion of the performance to lecture the SF audience on the incredible number of homeless people in the area around this beautiful theater. It is on Market Street at the edge of the Tenderloin—but it is also somewhat adjacent to SoMA, where web businesses have recently been establishing their billion dollar headquarters and where rents have skyrocketed. The sisters took a walk around before soundcheck, and they must have been shocked at what they saw. The streets around here are littered with the destitute and homeless—every block has folks begging, sleeping in doorways and dragging their meager belongings around. In what might be the most expensive and richest city in the world. Two Africans seeing this—of course they were shocked! And they all but berated the largely white audience for tolerating this and ignoring the plight of these folks amongst them.

I can't blame them—though one could claim that due to the nice weather out here and the general air of tolerance, the destitute, addicted, and homeless are way more visible than in many other American cities.

Enough preaching—it was another incredible show. I'm privileged to be a part of it. Yale asked me if it reminded me of the Talking Heads Remain in Light tour—when we doubled the band size and became a funk orchestra (sort of). I had to admit the feeling is similar—the groove-based music is similarly ecstatic, and I'd have to say for folks who weren't around at that time this is a way to experience that...though there's only the LA show left. Tickets are still available.

DB
SF


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