West Africa never felt so close as it did on Sunday night when Toubab Krewe took the stage at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. There is some kind of wonderful happening when the cultures of a roots-centric West Africa and the rockin’ of the rolling hills in North Carolina collide in a rhythmic force so powerful you can feel the earth take a breath of contentment. The soles of people bare feet were in step with the beats of a sound so “in the now” that you could almost see people embark as if they stepped foot in the transporter room on Star Trek. The band sweats out exploration and expansion, and the music that follows them on the stage beams with excitement and demands that you move along whichever way you choose. They have been features at venues such as the Bonnaroo and Vegoose festivals to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Their live shows and self-titled debut album have won international acclaim from the New York Times, Global Rhythm, fRoots, NPR and more. The members of Toubab Krewe developed their unique sound over the course of numerous extended trips to Mali, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, where they immersed themselves in the local culture and studied and performed with luminaries such as Lamine Soumano, Vieux Kante, Madou Dembele and Koungbanan Conde.
Opening the show was Yawo. The set was an elaborate blend of afro-cuban beats and funky scales which took potions of his Togo, West African homeland and global rhythms which manage to combine luscious melodies with a get-up-and-groove music that won over the crowd easily.