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January/February 2006

Gangbe Brass Band
Whendo
World Village

Joyous, powerful and above all playful, the Gangbe Brass Band from Benin covers a lot of territory on Whendo. "Gangbe" means "the sound of metal"; appropriately, this 10-piece outfit includes trumpets, saxophones, trombones, euphoniums, sousaphones and several drummers. They wend their way through the European military brass-band tradition, New Orleans stylings and Afro-beat and ju-ju from neighboring Nigeria on the 10 tracks here. With the band's eclectic tastes, it's easy to imagine Gangbe as Benin's answer to the Rebirth Brass Band or the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

"Remember Fela," the Gangbe's take on Afro-beat, simmers with the big horns re-creating the thick sultry bass lines of the Nigerian legend's music, while trumpet and saxophone unisons create a powerful lead. "Segala" recalls a bit of the jaunty swagger of the Ellington horn section before turning into a furious drum suite. The songs are sung in a wide variety of languages including Fon, Ngou, Yoruba, Mina, Eve and French, but their arrangements are easily understood as each of the 10 tracks moves gracefully from a collection of small, infectious sounds toward a powerful cathartic movement.

Originally published in January/February 2006
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