Bandalabra: Funk, Not Jazz

bandalabraFor SF WEEKLY: A resurgence of interest in Afrobeat music in recent years has produced a Broadway show about Fela Kuti, revived long-retired West African bands, and produced a slew of new, Afrobeat-inspired bands.

The four-piece Bandalabra, who play the Boom Boom Room April 26, conjures elements of Afrobeat — complex polyrhythms, call and response, native African harmonies, steady presence of clave — but the group, according to bandleader and saxophonist Skerik, is inherently “a funk band.”

“There isn’t a concerted effort to emulate any one thing,” Skerik said. “All rhythmic musics are eligible for use in Bandalabra, just no ‘jazz’ or swung eighth notes.” Bandalabra is the latest in a long line of Skerik projects; he’s collaborated or toured with REM’s Peter Buck, Les Claypool, Pearl Jam, the Meters, Roger Waters, Galactic, Mike Dillon, Ween, and many others.

He plays a signature style often accentuated by loops and electronics that could be described as the polar opposite of smooth jazz; one of his projects went so far as to call itself the Dead Kenny Gs. The influence of punk and heavy music courses through much of Skerik’s work as well — the Melvins may be as important here as John Coltrane.

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