Kokolo
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Kokolo

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"Superb Afro-beat outfit" - January 2005


"Where do I start? Kokolo are quite simply one of the most versatile outfits in the scene. They can drop a scintillating Afrobeat gem...to wrap the whole package up. Just when you think you have the outfit pegged, they switch gears and get wildly funky with wah wah guitar, a stripped down groove and soulful vocal. Excellent stuff" - September 2004


"One of the best new groups of the genre working today...tight, righteous, and with a boundary-crossing quality that grabs you no matter what direction you approach the music from...grooving hard in a style that would have made Fela Kuti proud!" - October 2002


"Wildly enjoyable...the sound of Fela Kuti meeting The Clash at a late-70's Hip Hop Jam in Spanish Harlem" - November 2004


"If you don't know by now... This is TOP DOLLAR Afrobeat... Straight up no doubt about it, this is the best Afrobeat band around with a Fela-centric outlook that'll have ya toe tapping like mad... Recommended!!! - June 2005


"By far one of the best afrobeat bands around...these kind of tracks are what make the Turntables on the Hudson crowd go crazy" - November 2003


"A powerhouse live act...Kokolo have established their own brand of afrobeat" - February 2005


"As politically challenging in their lyrical content as they are infectious in their rhythms" - July 2004


The heart of Manhattan's Chinatown isn't where you'd expect to hear the bubbling bump of Afrobeat, certainly not being played by a bunch of reformed New York punk, jazz and funk musicians who look like they've just come off a midtown squash court.

But it's precisely Kokolo's refusal to present themselves as anything but who they are that gives hardcore-schooled guitarist Ray Lugo and his hard-charging crew a sense of authenticity amongst the global horde of next-generation Afrobeat orchestras building on Fela Kuti's explosive sound far from its Nigerian epicentre.

"I'd feel really uncomfortable going onstage wearing a dashiki to play this music," explains Lugo from his New York pad. "There's an important cultural significance to those garments that's just not part of my experience, so it wouldn't be appropriate. Similarly, it's important that the music we play reflect who we are as people.

"I mean, you need to have an appreciation for music of West Africa and all the musicians like Fela Kuti and Geraldo Pino who contributed so much to the development of Afrobeat, but there's a difference between respect and emulation, at least for me."

While Afrobeat admittedly isn't the trendy sound it once was five or six years back, when Universal was reissuing Fela Kuti's classic Afrika 70 recordings, Kokolo has been working to keep the sound in the clubs by bringing in some funk moves and salsa heat.

And with the help of their well-connected Freestyle label boss, UK DJ Adrian Gibson, Kokolo are also waging an aggressive remix campaign.

"We're a 100 per cent live band, and I think a lot of the work we've done in 2005 cemented our reputation as a live entity. So when the remix idea came up, I was all for it.

"The process is really exciting. You give your finished canvas to a different artist – maybe someone you've never met. They manipulate the image as they see fit, and when it comes back, it's like, 'Wow, I never noticed that was there' or 'I didn't think that was possible. '"

Stockholm's BeatFanatic gives Kokolo's Mama Don't Want No Gun joint a sweet tweak (on Nascente's swank three-CD set), Faze Action have done a bang-up job with Mister Sinister (on Slip 'n' Slide's Afrique C'est Chic 3), and so have Word of Mouth on their Jamayaka-label split single with Roy Davis Jr. Kokolo's frequent appearances on compilations are also helping to spread the message in places they've never played.

"Along with maintaining an experimental approach to this music and keeping an open mind to new sounds and different ideas, I'm keen on expanding our reach internationally.

"Everywhere we play I can see that this music really connects with people, but why should we confine ourselves to North America and Europe when we could be connecting with people in Brazil, India and Sri Lanka, too." By TIM PERLICH - NYC Afrobeat Crew Kick Ass Globally - January 2006


"Irresistible" - August 2005


Discography

* Afro Funk: Feel The Beat Compilation (Big Sur) - June 2006
* Each One Teach One 7" (Afrokats) - May 2006
* Freestyle Remixed Compilation (Freestyle) - March 2006
* Beginners Guide To Afro Lounge Compilation (Nascente) - January 2006
* The Loft Compilation (KinkySweet) - January 2006
* Even Nice Girls Compilation (Public Release) - November 2005
* Afrique Cest Chic CD Box Set (Slip N' Slide) - November 2005
* Halucinator / Move It EP (Funk'd) - Sept. 2005
* Roy Davis Jr. Split 12" (Jamayka) - Sept. 2005
* Frequent Flyer Compilation (KinkySweet) - August 2005
* Sabroso/Beatfanatic 12" (Freestyle) - August 2005
* Afrique C'est Chic 3 Compilation (Slip 'n' Slide) - July 2005
* On The Run Compilation (Ether) - June 2005
* More Consideration Mini-LP (Freestyle) - February 2005
* House Afrika Compilation (House Afrika) - December 2004
* Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project Compilation (Modiba) - November 2004
* Mister Sinister Remix 12" E.P. (Jamayka) - November 2004
* One Love Vol. 1 Compilation (Pure Hemp) - October 2004
* More Consideration CD (Freestyle) - October 2004
* Root To The Fruit 12" E.P. (Freestyle) - August 2004
* More Consideration Amadou Diallo (Engine) - July 2004
* African Xpress Compilation (Shakti/Virgin) - March 2003
* Big Daddy Vol. 3 Compilation - June 2002
* Live at WFMU Compilation - June 2002
* Fuss and Fight CD/LP (Afrokings) - June 2002
* Donkey 7" (Afrokings) - June 2002

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

In just a few years, KOKOLO's infectious blend of social commentary, charisma and musical appeal has taken them from the tangled streets of their native New York to the world's stage, firmly establishing them as premier innovators in rhythm-based music, and drawing scores of afro-beat lovers, funk heads, salsa aficionados, dance club punters and jazz connoisseurs along the way.

KOKOLO (a name derived from Spanish-Harlem slang used to describe hardcore followers of afro music) formed in May 2001, at a time when the Big Apple's nu afro-beat scene began to take shape. Formed by lead singer and songwriter Ray Lugo and English trombonist Chris Morrow, the duo soon blossomed to eight core members, and within two months became mainstays at New York's venue for the avant-garde, the Knitting Factory.

Turning to the DIY ethic of his formative punk days, Lugo self-produced and released the octet's urgent “Fuss and Fight” debut through a deal with England's Afrokings label in 2002, under the shadow of the World Trade Center attacks. That same year, KOKOLO undertook the first of many visits to the U.K., giving European audiences an initial taste of the live energy the band is known for.

"My aim" Lugo explains, "was to fuse the socio-political awareness of punk and the confidence of hip-hop with the sophistication of afro-beat, funk, Latin music and beyond - in order to create something unique based on my own experiences".

Lugo's music demonstrates a continually evolving ear for song craftsmanship, writing and producing works that owe an equal amount to Fela Kuti and Ruben Blades as they do to The Clash and Hip Hop. The man's music, always danceable, always grooving, has something to say as well: "The fair and balanced distribution of information, education, natural resources and economic opportunities among all inhabitants of this planet is the key to our collective well-being over the long term".

In 2004, KOKOLO returned with their second full-length, the ambitious and aesthetically superior “More Consideration”, which, like their first CD, took its inspiration from present circumstances. But instead of being fueled by the paranoia of a post-WTC attack world, like “Fuss...” was, this rhythmic masterwork drew its subject matter from the humanist writings of Eastern philosophers like Osho, Krishnamurti and from the life of French/American artist Marcel Duchamp.

“More Consideration” featured guest appearances by a score of accomplished players, including guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter (Disposable Heroes of HipHoprisy), drummer Jojo Kuo (Fela Kuti/Manu DiBango), keyboardist Greg Lewis (Chocolate Genius), bassist Gabe Roth (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), and keyboardist Mike Weitman (Project Logic).

The band have cemented their reputation as an explosive live act through a healthy dose of international shows that have taken them from CBGB's, to London's Jazz Cafe, to the stages of the Montreal Jazz and Glastonbury Festivals, where they've shared the spotlight with acts ranging from Gilles Peterson, Roots Manuva, Taj Mahal and Issac Hayes to Zap Mama, Chic and Roy Ayers.

Active involvement in social causes emphasizes KOKOLO's belief that music, more than just providing entertainment, can also serve as a tool for raising awareness and effecting change. KOKOLO has contributed songs for causes ranging from relief for victims of Sudan's Darfur crisis (Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project) to environmental protection (One Love Vol. 1). In addition, the band consistently performs on behalf of a variety of social organizations.

In keeping with KOKOLO's open approach to experimentation, they have released a number of remixes by in-demand producers such as Faze Action (Bebel Gilberto, St. Etienne), Word of Mouth, Richy Pitch, Beatfanatic and White Mike. These collaborations have expanded the band's cross-genre appeal, and helped KOKOLO reach new audiences through a number of releases that also feature acts such as Zero 7, Femi Kuti, Masters At work, Ladysmith Black Mambaso, Quantic Soul Orchestra, U-Roy, Tony Allen, Afro Celt Sound System, Jazztronik and many others.

Though justly characterized as "tampering" with the afro-beat tradition for world audiences, by remaining intent on exploring sounds that take them out of the mainstream afro-funk sphere while keeping scores of fans who get it, KOKOLO have proven themselves perennial favorites and destined to remain such.

Look for KOKOLO to keep us guessing on their upcoming third album, “Love International”, scheduled for release in the fall of 2006.

-Stewart Killington