Aphrodesia

Aphrodesia

BandWorldFunk

The San Francisco-based Aphrodesia has won audiences over since 2003 with an eclectic, unique sound- a blend of rich, female lead vocals and slamming horn-laden polyrhythmic funk that Global Rhythm Magazine called “a Pan-African mash-up.”

Band Press

Their Own Spin on Afrobeat – Boston Globe

Aphrodesia honors a master and draws on fresh inspiration
By Andrew Gilbert, Globe Correspondent | April 27, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO -- For Aphrodesia, the moment of truth came when the San Francisco band took the stage at The Shrine, the legendary Lagos club founded by Nigeria's late musical rebel-in-chief Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The gig was the culmination of a monthlong trip to West Africa, and the 11-piece combo's performance marked the first time a Western band brought Fela's funk-driven Afrobeat style back to the source.
Part of an international Afrobeat movement that has flourished since Fela's death from AIDS a decade ago, Aphrodesia had arrived in Ghana in February 2006 with the vague hope of traveling to Nigeria when a chance encounter put them in touch with Fela's son, bandleader, saxophonist, and Afrobeat standard bearer Femi Kuti. Against all odds, the band made it to The Shrine and put on the show of a lifetime.
"We were all exhausted from trying to cross the border all day, dealing with armed soldiers in our face, snatching our passports and looking for bribes," says bassist Ezra Gale, who performs with Aphrodesia at the Milky Way Lounge on Sunday (a detailed account of the harrowing trip from Ghana to Nigeria can be found on the band's website, aphrodesia .org).
"We're looking out at this crowd of 400 Nigerians standing there with their arms folded, looking back at us like, OK white people, let's see what you got," Gale says. "Three or four songs into our set, Femi came out and played with us, and that was the stamp of approval. Once that happened, everyone was up and dancing and the rest of the night it was a big party."
Founded by Gale and vocalist Lara Maykovich in 2003, Aphrodesia has honed its own particular take on the Afrobeat sound, incorporating influences far beyond the original blend of insistent James Brown funk and West African polyrhythms. Maykovich, who studied Shona thumb piano while living in Zimbabwe, brings the incantatory patterns of m'bira into Aphrodesia's mix. Much like Brooklyn's Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, widely considered the United States' seminal post-Fela Afrobeat band, Aphrodesia also draws on Afro-Caribbean, reggae, and hip-hop grooves.
Jazz also figures prominently in Aphrodesia's sound, as the band is stocked with potent improvisers such as saxophonists Mitch Marcus and Sylvain Carton, founding members of the wildly inventive ensemble Japonize Elephants. But it's the crunching, horn-laden approach founded by Fela that forms the bedrock of Aphrodesia's style, just as his outspoken politics mesh with the band's sense of mission.
Indeed, Fela's fearless commitment to social justice remains a key part of his legacy -- he was jailed and beaten repeatedly for his scathing denunciations of the corruption of Nigeria's military governments -- a bequest that many Afrobeat bands have embraced. Aphrodesia first gained widespread attention in 2004's "Just Vote Tour," a cross-country voter registration drive in a vegetable oil-powered bus (they're riding the fourth incarnation of that petroleum-free vehicle on this East Coast tour).Continued...

Pan-African Mash Up – Village Voice

Aphrodesia take New York's Afrobeat revival back to the homeland
by Kylen Campbell
April 24th, 2006 12:29 PM

To look at Aphrodesia's 11 members, the last music you might guess they play is Afrobeat. Their mosh-worn Doc Martens, black jackets, and ties suggest a ska band. What attitude they do wear on their sleeves—like so many art-punk lefties plucked from St. Marks—is matter-of-fact green politics.
Aphrodesia are, in fact, a powerful showing in what has come to be a full-blown, New York–spawned Afrobeat revival. The funk-saturated, jazz-informed big-band sound created by Nigeria's Fela Kuti, who died in 1997, has resurged in popularity since 2000, thanks largely to local Afrobeat Orchestras like Antibalas, Kokolo, and Akoya. Add to the mix Aphrodesia, now mainly basing themselves out of the Bay Area but founded and fronted by East Villager Ezra Gale: "Growing up in the city, you're exposed to a million different influences. It's constant stimulation." Gale trained in jazz guitar with legendary multi-instrumentalist Yusuf Lateef and played jazz and funk around the country for years. While leading a salsa combo, he and guitarist Chris "Mully" Mulhauser met singer Lara Maykovich, a dance instructor who had immersed herself in traditional song and voice in Ghana, and Aphrodesia's sound followed suit.

On stage, they're exuberant and playful: A slinking bass might emerge from a dub beat, then get accented by a Miles Davis-like riff, followed by an explosion of highlife horns and drums. Mulhauser says, "it combines a lot of stuff that usually isn't combined." Or, as Gale quips, It's pan-African mash-up." Their CDs, Shackrobeat Vol. 1 and Front Lines, will soon be joined by a third.

That Afrobeat is itself a hybrid and was born as protest is part of the plan. Aphrodesia's musico-political merger is honest, elegant, and righteous. In 2004 they crisscrossed the nation in a biodiesel-powered (vegetable oil!) bus emblazoned with the words "Just Vote," registering voters as they went. "It was worth proving that it could be done," says Muhlauser.

And they've just returned from Africa, where in addition to successfully conducting the groove in villages and at festivals, they endured passage into Nigeria to play at the genre's home base. The Shrine, in Lagos, is Femi Kuti's continuation of his father Fela's seminal club. Femi himself leapt onstage to play—effectively anointing them.

"8 Days a Week" – SF Bay Guardian

Countdown throw-down Afrobeat is a musical phenomenon whose time has come. After languishing in the record crates of only the most erudite DJs, Afrobeat forebear Fela Kuti's inimitable sound has finally found its way to American stages. If you're unfamiliar with the Black President's relentless African funk and politicized lyrics, stop reading this and go get Zombie (Barclay). If you're already hip to his earthshaking anthems, you know El Rio is the place to be this New Year's Eve. Aphrodesia, San Francisco's contenders in the Afrobeat arena, are 11 young heavyweights who play Kuti's music but embellish the form with Latin swing and reggae skank. Vocalist Lara Maykovich adds a steamy sensuality not found in Kuti's aggressive chants, shifting the focus of the message from the boardroom to the bedroom. It's an irresistible twist that'll keep you begging for more. Proceeds from the show, dubbed "Dance down the Empire: Resistance Lounge II," benefit Direct Action to Stop the War. 8 p.m.-2 a.m., El Rio, 3158 Mission, S.F. $20-$50 (no one turned away for lack of funds). (415) 282-3325, www.actagainstwar.org. (Jonathan Zwickel)

Aphrodesia – East Bay Express

APHRODESIA

There's a lot you could be doing Halloween night, we know. But Aphrodesia at Jupiter (510-843-7625) Friday night promises to be a treat, no tricks (honest). Aphrodesia's new CD, Shackrobeat Vol. 1, is absolutely amazing, placing the band as the Bay Area's answer to Antibalas -- their music revolves around funky groovy Afro-beat and Afro-Cuban workouts. Yet they up the ante with tinges of West African highlife and elements from Zimbabwean and Ghanaian rhythmic traditions, even a hint of James Brown funk. You can also catch them at the Elbo Room in SF (415-552-7788) Wednesday night along with Future Juju. (E.K.A.)

"Shackrobeat Vol. 1" Review – Jambase.com

Anyone feeling their musical tummy grumbling for some Fela style fare should grab a fork. Aphrodesia blenderizes high life sunshine, clinky chunky percussion, super thick horns and a vocal assault that does Fela's own Egypt 80 proud. What sets this apart from simple, sturdy homage is the living engagement with Nigerian funk and other African music. As with Ezra Gale's Latin rompers Mas Cabeza, this band complicates genre. They can be cooking along into some groovetastic pocket and out of that will rise a solo pretty as pie and damn near as sweet. Or in the midst of all this rhythm slink they'll slide in a number like "Step Into Your Life" which evokes Cesaria Evora. A few cuts feel almost too traditional; a bit hot on the high end especially vocally but that too is interesting in recreating the precise feel of '60s African popular sounds. The Bay Area's fab Myles Boisen outdoes himself again behind the boards, recording and mixing up another sumptuous album in his Guerrilla Studios.

In the Afrobeat Groove – San Jose Mercury News

By Andrew Gilbert
mercurynews
Article Launched: 12/20/2007 05:34:57 AM PST

Lots of musicians write songs inspired by their adventures on the road, but few bands have gathered material as harrowing and vivid as Aphrodesia, an 11-piece San Francisco ensemble that made a West African pilgrimage to the club built by Afrobeat patriarch Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
The band's odyssey is the subject of its compelling new album, "Lagos By Bus," a polyglot account of a perilous but ultimately triumphant trip from Ghana to Nigeria. Aphrodesia celebrates the release of the CD on Friday at the Independent in San Francisco, headlining a show that includes the Bay Area Balkan ensemble Brass Menazeri.
Part of an international movement that has flourished since Fela's death from AIDS a decade ago, Aphrodesia had arrived in Ghana in February 2006 with the vague hope of traveling to Nigeria's capital, Lagos. A chance encounter put them in touch with Fela's son, bandleader, saxophonist and Afrobeat standard-bearer Femi Kuti. Against all odds, the band made it to the Shrine and rocked the club, the first time a Western combo had brought Fela's funk-driven Afrobeat sound back to the source.
"We were all exhausted from trying to cross the border all day, dealing with armed soldiers in our face, snatching our passports and looking for bribes," bassist Ezra Gale says. "We're looking out at this crowd of 400 Nigerians standing there with their arms folded, looking back at us like, 'OK white people, let's see what you got.' Three or four songs into our set,
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Femi came out and played with us, and that was the stamp of approval. Once that happened, everyone was up and dancing, and the rest of the night it was a big party."
The band recounts the chaos and anxiety of the border-crossing experience on the hard-driving song "Bus Driver," which includes ambient sound recorded during the encounter. The lyric of another tune, "Holy Ghost Invasion," is drawn entirely from signs they saw during their stay in Lagos (a detailed account of the Africa trip can be found on the band's Web site, www.aphrodesia.org). "Anybody who's been to West Africa knows they have a really localized version of Christianity," Gale says. "Everywhere we looked there were signs like 'God Is Here Beauty Salon,' or 'All You Have Is All You Need Groceries.' We wrote down a bunch and turned it into a song."
Founded by Gale and vocalist Lara Maykovich in 2003, Aphrodesia has honed its own particular take on the Afrobeat sound, incorporating influences far beyond the original blend of insistent James Brown funk and West African polyrhythms. Maykovich studied Shona thumb piano while living in Zimbabwe, and she brings the incantatory patterns of m'bira into Aphrodesia's mix of Afro-Caribbean, reggae and hip-hop grooves.
Jazz also figures prominently in Aphrodesia's sound, as the band is stocked with potent improvisers such as saxophonists Mitch Marcus and Sylain Carton, founding members of the wildly inventive ensemble Japonize Elephants. But it's the crunching, horn-laden approach, founded by Fela, that forms the bedrock of Aphrodesia's style, just as his outspoken politics mesh with the band's sense of mission.
Jailed and beaten repeatedly for his scathing denunciations of the corruption of Nigeria's military governments, Fela left a politically charged legacy that many Afrobeat bands have embraced. Aphrodesia first gained widespread attention in 2004's "Just Vote Tour," a cross-country voter registration drive in a bus powered by vegetable oil.
"We never sat down and said, OK, we need to be a political band," Gale says. "It flows out of who we are as people and how the music speaks to us. Which isn't to say you couldn't write a silly Afrobeat pop song. I'm sure you could, and I reserve the right to do that. But so far, the grooves and the politics really lend themselves to each other."
Gale came to Afrobeat after immersing himself in jazz, particularly the early 1970s fusion of Miles Davis. He explored the style in Bitches Brew, a sprawling band that played an important role in the Bay Area's mid-1990s acid jazz scene. He and Maykovich first connected about seven years ago in the Afro-Cuban band Mas Cabeza.
Raised in Harrisburg, Pa., Maykovich attended the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colo., and then spent 1997 and '98 in Africa, where she studied and performed with members of Akrowa Dance Ensemble of Ghana, and the National Music and Dance Company of Zimbabwe. When she returned to Boulder, she became lead vocalist for the Motet, and eventually founded her own band, Being Lara Maykovich, a project steeped in Afro-Cuban and African grooves.
"I always related to rhythm-based music, and African music is so inviting and inclusive," Maykovich says. "Its nature and purpose is to bring people together, which is why I feel that it's such a gateway to creating new forms. I love that Afrobeat was a fusion of funk and African rhythms, and the idea that it allo

Assorted Press Quotes – None

“The Bay Area’s answer to Antibalas, Aphrodesia makes music with enough vim and vigor to make Fela’s spirit proud. On this self-produced debut release, Aphrodesia adds traditional East African, dub reggae, and American funk and jazz influence to the Afrobeat bag, creating and album that truly deserves the multiculti tag. (Flatbead Lamborghini)” Eric K. Arnold - East Bay Express

“At some point listening to Shackrobeat, we guarantee that you (yes, you) are going to have to get up out of your chair and shake your ass to grooves you thought were long dead. This is pure, and simple, the dripping antidote to the well-worn over-produced dreadful pop parade of late...In the end, this is one to keep on deck for when life throws that inevitable raw deal into your lap and you need some simple, effective, and downright lush aural medicine” Steven Horn - IGN .com

“Countdown throw-down Afrobeat is a musical phenomenon whose time has come. After languishing in the record crates of only the most erudite DJ’s Afrobeat forebear Fela Kuti’s inimitable sound has finally found its way to American stages. If you’re unfamiliar with the black presidents relentless African Funk and politicized lyrics, stop reading this and go get Zombie (Barclay). If you’re already hip to his earthshaking anthems, you know El Rio is the place to be this New Year’s Eve. Aphrodesia, San Francisco’s contenders in the Afrobeat arena, are 11 young heavyweights who play Kuti’s music but embellish the form with Latin swing and reggae shank. Vocalist Lara Maykovich adds a steamy sensuality not found in Kuti’s aggressive chants, shifting the focus of the message from the boardroom to the bedroom. It’s an irresistible twist that’ll keep you begging for more. Proceeds from the show, dubbed “Dance down the Empire: Resistance Lounge II.” benefit Direct Action to Stop the War. 8p.m.-2a.m., El Rio, 3158 Mission, S.F. $20-$50 (no one turned away for the lack of funds). (415) 282-3325, www.actagainstwar.org” Jonathan Zwickel - SF Bay Guardian “8 Days a Week” pick for Dec. 31, 2003

“Aphodesia’s new CD, Shackrobeat Vol. 1, is absolutely amazing, placing the band as the Bay Areas answer to Antibalas -- their music revolves around funky Afro-beat and Afro-Cuban workouts. Yet they up the ante with tinges of West African highlife and elements from Zimbabwean and Ghanaian rhythmic traditions, even a hint of James Brown funk. You can also catch them at the Elbo Room in SF (415-552-7788) Wednesday night along with future Juju. (E.K.A.)” East Bay Express

Aphrodesia: Shackorbeat Vol. 1: “Anyone feeling their musical tummy grumbling for some Fela style fare should grab a fork. Aphrodesia blenderizes high life sunshine, clinky chunky percussion, super thick horns and a vocal assault that does Fela’s own Egypt 80 proud. What sets this apart from simple, sturdy homage is the living engagement with Nigerian funk and other African music.” Dennis Cook - Jambase.com