Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Toubab Krewe brings innovative style to Iron Horse

By Brian Canova

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Toubab Krewe, from Ashville, N.C., comes to the Iron Horse in Northampton on Friday night expected to bring a unique and original instrumental blend of West African traditions taken straight from Mali, with jam and southern rock sounds.

Boasting dream-like jams, Toubab weaves together off-the-wall riffs that effortlessly work electric guitars and standard drum sets in with Malian horsehair fiddles, 21 and 12-string African harp-lutes, a djembe – a skin-covered wooden drum ­– alongside a handful of other West African instruments to be found on stage.

Having grown together as musicians in the six years since their first studio release, Toubab proves time and time again over the course of their continuous tour of live performances that they are capable of seamlessly bringing together myriad influences in their worldly music and making it work.

Touring worldwide, Toubab has made a name for themselves at international venues and festivals, including the legendary Festival in the Desert in Mali, one of the most remote festivals in the world. Toubab has also booked gigs at U.S. festivals such as Bonaroo, Wakarusa and Rothbury. They also regularly take the stage at the famous hometown Asheville, N.C. venue, The Orange Peel.

The group, which has made many visits to Guinea, Mali and the Ivory Coast cites, draws influence on their music from African greats Ali Farka Toure, Orchestra Baobab and Salif Keita, which they picked up on these visits, according to their website. Toubab takes these influences and builds something innovative, modern and contemporary without abandoning these traditions. At this collision of West African traditional music and American rock, Toubab’s bright melodies and hasty beats excite the soul and hypnotize the mind.

Toubab is comprised of five members, Teal Brown (drum set), Drew Heller (electric guitar, souk), Justin Perkins (kora, kamelengoni, electric guitar), David Pransky (electric bass guitar) and Luke Quaranta (percussion). Heller, Perkins and Brown grew up together in the band’s hometown, playing in drum circles together as early as middle school where they began to toy with West African drumming, forming the percussion ensemble “Common Ground.” Quaranta hooked up with Teal at college, joining “Common Ground” in Asheville and the four embarked on their first odyssey to the African continent in a trip to Conakry, Guinea. Pransky, who was originally linked to the band through his sister who danced for “Common Ground,” was the last to join after making the instrumental switch from mandolin to bass guitar, completing Toubab Krewe.

Toubab Krewe plays at the Iron Horse in Northampton at 10 p.m. on Friday, April 1. Tickets are $12.50 in advance and $15 at the door.

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected]

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