Euforquestra
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Euforquestra

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"African Explorers"

Think hard... when was the last time you heard a bunch of guys from the midwestern US combine Fela Kuti-style Afrobeat with chants in praise of the Yoruba pantheon of dieties honored in the Afro-Cuban Lucumi religion? If it's been longer than you're comfortable with, get ahold of this offering from Iowa-based Euforquestra.

Taking a cue from both the long, tight, funky structures of Afrobeat and deeply traditional Cuban ensembles like Los Muñequitos de Mantanzas, they've come up with a very good best-of-both-worlds. The instrumental arrangements sport that familiar combination of African rhythm and James Brown funk that Fela Kuti pioneered and American bands like Antibalas continue to champion, but instead of lyrics ridiculing government incompetence or urging you to shake it on the dance floor, praises are chanted to the Orishas (spiritual beings) who represent and oversee humans and nature.

-Tom Orr - World Music Central


"Euforquestra Fuses Nigerian Afrobeats with a Cuban Flair"

Fusing the sounds of Nigerian Afrobeat music with the rich traditional sounds of Cuba in a musical interplay that connects these two branches of a vast multicultural tree, Iowa City, IA's Euforquestra has been offering up the best of the current Afrobeat craze to the Midwest and beyond since 2004; But don't let their youth fool you—there is a virility and an "inclusive, 'everyone get in here' sense of humor, (Jim Musser, music critic)" to their music and stage presence, not to mention a massive respect for their elders (check out their liner notes for a brief history of Fela Kuti's life in music), that has primed this 7-piece ensemble to become one of the most prolific and exciting Afrobeat sound machines on the scene—in fact, Euforquestra have already been hosting their own "Camp Euforia," an annual celebration of community and music, for three years.

Explorations in Afrobeat, the band's latest release, is a synthesis of West African and Cuban music rooted in the Yoruba tradition (The Yoruba are the largest single ethno-linguistic group in Nigeria and the second largest in Africa). Euforquestra also boasts two members who have studied traditional music in Cuba, the influence of which plunges the band deep into a full –bodied tradition of Cuban Rhythms, with the added elements of Afro-Cuban, Samba, Soca, Funk, Reggae and at times, even a bit of Bluegrass.

Listening to Explorations in Afrobeat is a wonderful journey through a rich multicultural past, a roots-anchored present and a global,integrated future. You will hear the familiar as well as the new, truly illustrating the Euforquestra's mission statement. - Star Pulse


"Euforquestra: Explorations in Afrobeat"

Euforquestra: Explorations in Afrobeat

Explorations in Afrobeat, the second album from Iowa’s Euforquestra, is a synthesis of West African and Cuban music rooted in the Yoruba tradition (The Yoruba are the largest single ethno-linguistic group in Nigeria and the second largest in Africa). Two of the band members have studied traditional Cuban music, which helps give the music of Euforquestra their varied sound, combining Afro-Cuban elements with Samba, Soca, Funk, Jazz, Reggae, and of course rock. Think Santana meets Osibisa meets Bob Marley and you have some idea of the musical concoction here. The band gets a rich sound by using tenor and alto sax, guitar, keyboards, bass, vibes, drums, percussion, and vocals. Much of the lyrical content is based on the Lucumi religion and its spiritual beings called the Orisha, which represents different elements of nature and the human condition such as fire, water, mental disease, motherhood, wisdom, lightning, etc. Quite a bit of information on this culture is given in the CD booklet, and it’s an interesting read for those who are new to the subject. All seven members of the band have a love for Afro-Cuban music and culture, and it really shows through the music.

Half the songs here are of epic length and surpass the nine-minute mark, which allows for plenty of fiery and groove laden jams featuring soaring sax, gritty guitar, tight percussion, and lofty keyboard sounds. Eric Quiner lays down some fat electric piano tones on the scorching “Obatala”, a rumbling jazz-funk-rocker with kick ass rhythms and plenty of hot sax and guitar interplay. Again, think Osibisa meets Santana with a healthy dose of jazz and reggae thrown in for good measure. Other hot tracks include the driving funk beats of “Ogun”, the sophisticated grooves of “Elegua”, and the heavily jazzed-up “Chango”, which features some wonderful sax work from Ryan Jeter and Austin Zaletel. I dare anyone to not get up on their feet and start dancing to the upbeat sounds of “Ochun”, a song with a strong Latin feel thanks to the vibes, percussion, and sax work.

This CD was a complete surprise, and will easily appeal to those who have an interest in African or Cuban music, jazz, World, prog rock, or any of the bands mentioned above. - Sea of Tranquility


"Explorations in Afrobeat"

Explorations In Afrobeat
Euforquestra | Eufórquestra Productions (2006)
By Chris M. Slawecki
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The second release from this seven-piece ensemble seems quite purposeful. Subtitled A fusion of Nigerian and Cuban music rooted in Yoruba tradition, it explores the deep connection between West African Afrobeat and Afro-Cuban music channeled through the religious, ceremonial music of the Yoruba tradition of West Africa.

Purposeful? The detailed liner notes sure seem so. For example, they explain that the Yoruba are the largest single ethno-linguistic group in Nigeria and the second largest in Africa, and that Yoruba culture was connected with the west through the slave trade that brought West Africans to Cuba to work the sugar fields.

As dry as that may read, Explorations In Afrobeat explodes, dances and melts in your ear with sheer bliss. Two members of the septet, Matt Grundstad (percussion, lead vocals) and Adam Grosso (bass, vibes, vocals), studied in Cuba with members of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Grupo Afro-Cuba. The remaining five—Ryan Jeter (tenor saxophone, vocals), Austin Zaletel (alto saxophone, vocals), Mike Tallman (guitar, vocals), Josten Foley (drums, vocals) and Eric Quiner (keyboards, vocals)—never lag behind, as they collectively whip through this set comprising the Orisha, the list of Yoruban gods each song ceremonially honors.

Flowing with thick, lusty rhythms that heat your blood, each musician’s part interlocks so tightly with the others’ that this music seems so coiled it might explode. Tallman strums and stabs guitar rhythms that sound both African (chiming juju in “Elegua”) and Caribbean (“Obatalá,” with chords more familiar in Western ears from reggae).

African guitar and Afro-Cuban percussion blossom from electric organ swells of “Ogún,” then every instrument lifts up and sings in a joyous, communal and primal rhythm, with horn charts that stab equal parts melodic and rhythmic punctuation. Jeter’s tenor saxophone solo wails like a siren to stoke even higher the rhythmic flame of this dervish named for the Orisha of metal and war who “also represents all forms of energy.” Wisely named, “Ogún” is twelve crackling minutes of pure electricity.

“With this album we have done our best to take elements of Nigerian and Afro-Cuban music and combine them with our own ideas,” notes Grundstad. “Our intent is not to ‘steal’ music from other cultures but to learn from them and share them with anyone who is willing to listen.”

Visit Euforquestra on the web.


Track listing: Elegua; Ogun; Obatala; Intro; Chango; Intro; Ochun; Elegua Outro.

Personnel: Mike Tallman: guitar, mandolin, vocals; Eric Quiner: keyboards, vocals; Adam Grosso: bass, steelpan, vibes, vocals; Josten Foley: drumset, vocals; Matt Grundstad: percussion, vocals; Ryan Jeter: tenor saxophone, vocals; Austin Zaletel: alto saxophone, vocals. - Allaboutjazz.com


"Jazz Review"


Year: 2006

Record Label: Euforquestra Productions

Yoruba is the main ethno-linguistic group in Nigeria and the second one widely spread in Africa. Iowa's Euforquestra delivers us a second gem, Explorations in Afrobeat, in which listeners will enjoy West African rhythms and Yoruba tradition plus some splendid art work and an informative booklet.

Euforquestra brews as a powerful band deploying a variety of Afro-Cuban rhythms, reggae, samba, jazz, and even rock. The tracks are filled with a high poetic input rooted in the Lucumi religion and spectral beasts, delineated with manifold aspects of nature and ethno-culture. As the groove builds up, the band plays with fever off each track. The guitar flakes phrases while the reeds use polyphonic shades, keys and vibes creating whirling notes.

Euforquestra's foundations are indeed many instruments: drums, percussion, bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophones and vibes. It showcases grandiose moments of twitter, exploring spaces with vocals, rhythms and ancestral euphonies.

These pieces of art embody a multitude of musical styles alternating between riotous grooves and fusion discharges as well as loquacious passages. A sense of quest is raised up to represent the art distinctive figuring of Euforquestra rhythmic methods, wildly stating a keystone meaning.

This release is surprising as its music touches for originality and companionship along with its cushy proximity and genuineness. Highly recommended!

- Jazzreview.com


Discography

"Explorations in Afrobeat" was released in March of 2006, following the band's debut album, "The Adventures of Glen Devey," in January 2005.

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Bio

Euforquestra is a cutting-edge, worldbeat ensemble from Iowa City, IA, with influence spanning a wide array of traditional music and culture from all over the globe. Educated in Cuba, the band has made a mission statement out of preserving cultural traditions, indiscriminately attempting anything at least once and fusing many worldly styles. The self-proclaimed "Afro-Caribbean-Barnyard-Funk" brings an explosive sound, moving crowds all over the nation, while touching on such genres as Afrobeat, Afro-Cuban, Samba, Soca, Funk, Reggae, Salsa, Calypso, and Bluegrass. As percussionist and lead vocalist, Matt Grundstad, puts it, "Euforquestra just wants to make people dance." Although the band is most commonly grouped among the jamband community, Euforquestra's music appeals to anyone and everyone with an "inclusive 'everyone get in here' sense of humor" (Jim Musser - renowned Iowa City music critic).

Despite the relatively young 4-year existence of Euforquestra, their music is on the radio in many states across the country. They have performed everywhere from Ohio to Washington and at festivals such as moe. Summer Camp, Spookstock (Schwagstock), Bockman's Campout, Wakarusa, Mountain Fair ( Carbondale, CO), Sweet Pea Fest (Bozeman, MT), and Nedfest (Nederland, CO). Recently, "Ochun," a song from Euforquestra's latest album, Explorations In Afrobeat, was selected to be a part of Global Rhythm Magazine's compilation disc.

What makes Euforquestra special is that they always bring something new and unique to the stage as new projects drive the band into further musical studies. As in Explorations In Afrobeat, Euforquestra fuses western African and Cuban musics rooted in Yoruba tradition. Having had two members study in Cuba, the band dives deep into a rich tradition of Cuban rhythm and song evolved from the Yoruba tribe which was brought to Cuba, as well as other countries, years ago during the slave trade. Here Euforquestra connects essentially two branches from the same tree.

The band's recent success has spawned the company Euforquestra Productions, specializing in booking, publicity, and design, in an effort to strengthen the regional music community and to give up-and-coming bands more opportunities to perform. Euforquestra Productions is also the main organizer and producer of Camp Euforia, an annual weekend celebration of music and culture located just outside of Iowa City, at which 2007 saw nearly 1500 of the area's fans and musicians gathered to enjoy more than 20 top regional and local acts.

Check out Euforquestra; you'll hear something new, you'll dance, and you'll be sure to have a good time.

Euforquestra is Mike Tallman (Guitar/Mandolin/Vocals), Eric Quiner (Keys/Vocals), Adam Grosso (Bass/Steelpan/Vibes/Vocals), Josten Foley (Drums/Vocals), Matt Grundstad (Percussion/Vocals), Ryan Jeter (Tenor Saxophone/Vocals), and Austin Zaletel (Alto Saxophone/Vocals).