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San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE | AFM

San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE | AFM
Band World Funk




"Un boucan. Un raffut. Un joyeux bordel."

Un boucan. Un raffut. Un joyeux bordel. Des rythmes Afrobeat transposés sur du funk. Des transes vocales. Et un album illustré avec Barack Obama qui tient le continent africain dans sa main. Quelle logique est à tirer? Aucune à part celle que l’ordre naît du chaos et que Sila and the Afrofunk Experience offre un opus totalement imprévisible qui pique la curiosité. - Touki Montreal.


Kenyan funk master Sila Mutungi outshone such notable competition as Zap Mama and Omou Sangare at the 41st Annual NAACP Image Awards to take home the prize for Outstanding World Music Album. Sila and the Afrofunk Experience’s second album Black President was recognized as the top entry in the genre for 2009, a notable achievement and something of a surprise for the San Francisco-based artist and Kenyan native, who released the album independently on his own Visalia label.

Sila joins other NAACP Image Award winners Wynton Marsalis, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, the Black Eyed Peas, Maxwell, and Keri Hilson for the music categories. The awards were announced on February 26, 2010.

"This is beyond my wildest dreams," said Sila. "As a boy growing up in Kenya, I could only imagine having a successful career in the music industry, and to win in this category over artists like Zap Mama and Omou Sangare, who have helped bring African music to American and international audiences for so many years, is something I will never forget."

In his acceptance speech, Sila noted the impact of the election of Barack Obama (who inspired the album’s title) on his homeland, and its importance to Africa in general."In these times, music has to speak the truth more than ever. As musicians and artists, we have to promote social change all over the world."

It was likely that same conviction and dedication to humanitarian issues which swayed Image Award voters. Besides the unquestionable relevancy of Black President‘s title track, the album tackled such topical and weighty issues as refugees, female beauty ideals, and global politics, with an original and funky Afropop sound influenced by both Fela Kuti and James Brown. The Image Award caps a remarkable outpouring of critical acclaim for Sila and the Afrofunk Experience and Black President. In addition to the band being named "Best International Act" by SF Weekly, the album was among the Top 5 African releases of 2009, according to IPR’s "Afropop Worldwide."

The co-founder of the Afro Funk Music Festival, an annual happening benefiting educational and health-related efforts in Africa, Sila has also been at the forefront of the Bay Area’s relief efforts for Haitian earthquake victims. He headlined "SF Hearts Haiti," a sold-out show which raised 10K for disaster aid.

"Black President Album Review"

"Mr. President, I got something to say/ People are hungry for change," sings Victor Sila in "Black President," the title track of his band's latest album. "I am change. You are change. We are change." To be sure, Sila and the Afrofunk Experience know the importance of political and cultural change, as well as the possibilities of music as a tool for bringing it about.

Raised in Kenya by his grandmother, Victor Sila Mutungi was introduced to Western music at a young age. After listening to a series of Christian sermons broadcast on the Voices of America network - a requirement of his devout grandmother - Sila immersed himself in the '70s funk and soul classics of the pop-music program that followed. Though grandma dismissed it as the work of the Devil, Sila paid close attention and assimilated the music's vocal harmonies, earthy rhythms, and raw emotion.

He would later discover Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti, and Funkiest Man in Africa, the first album from Sila and the Afrofunk Experience, ably blended American funk and soul with Afrobeat and Pan-African percussion. On Black President (Visila Records), the band delves further into Western elements - particularly Motown and hard Funkadelic style funk - and advances a more overt political message. The album cover, a painting of a young, casually dressed Barack Obama cradling the African continent in his hand, sets the tone.

"Shelter" launches the album with unflagging energy, from the opening horn blast to Sila's piercing yells and ululating freakouts. He establishes himself as a versatile lead singer, unafraid to push the upper registers with spontaneous yelps and powerful, screeching voiced punctuation marks. The syncopated rhythm, driven by Bennie Murray on drums and Wendell Rand on bass, winds tightly throughout the melody, but it's all about Sila's vocals and the overwhelming horns, with the trumpet of Mike Pitre taking the lead (a pattern that continues throughout the album).

"Beauty Queen" slides into a more Latin-flavored mode, with multiple female vocal responses to Sila's sultry delivery. The relentlessly positive "Africa" is reminiscent of Orchestra Baobab, and the free-flowing Caribbean beat and soft percussion accents demand beach or poolside listening.

On "Chrome," Sila turns in his most intriguing vocal performance, as his high-pitched screams ("I'm freaking OUT!") complement and punctuate the cool, hepcat flow of the melody. Think of the well-constructed yet laid-back neo-soul of rock quintet Townhall, with James Brown and Prince trading improvisations over the top.

"Thief in the House" most accurately demonstrates the band's indebtedness to Kuti. The loping rhythm sets a rock-solid baseline for Sila's raps about political bribery and the continued repression of the poverty-stricken citizens of African nations. "What Makes You Laugh Makes You Cry" echoes "Thief" in its structure and lyrical content ("mothers, on their knees, asking, 'Have you seen my child?'") and proves to be the catchiest track.

The album's main stumble is "You Love You," a heavy-handed, reggae-drenched song about the necessity of loving yourself before accepting love from someone else. It takes the earnestness quotient - usually an asset for this band - over the line. Black President ends with "I'm So Tired," a fiery but overlong summation of the band's activist message. In typical Afrobeat fashion, the jaunty beat undulates beneath Sila's boisterous proclamations that he's tired "of the television…of CNN…of people calling Africa the black continent…of people stealing from Africa…all this bullshit, all this corruption shit, all this genocide shit."

His point is obvious and plainspoken: "No time for love/ We make no time for family," adding, "No time to say hello/ No time to say I love you/ No time for truth." It's an important and timely notion, and the driving momentum of the band provides a fitting forum for Sila's message. - Jambase

"Dance-Floor-Friendly Album"

Sila and the Afrofunk Experience reflects the vibrant, exciting soukous and Afro-beat sounds of the musician's homeland in its new, dance-floor-friendly album, "Funkiest Man in Africa.

- The San Francisco Chronicle

"James Brown Dance floor Boogie Strut"

James Brown's dance floor boogie strut infused with the manic drumming and serpentine guitar jams of Sila's native Kenya. - San Francisco Magazine

"Guarantee to keep you glued to the Dance Floor"

Sila and the Afrofunk Experience have exploded onto the Bay Area world music scene with an irresistible blend of traditional African and Afro-Latin rhythms, slinky guitar, and Sila's syrupy Swahili and English vocals. The ten-piece also throws some crucial reggae skank and hip-hop swagger into the mix, resulting in an upbeat, multiculti celebration that's guaranteed to keep you glued to the dance floor. - San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Sila and the Afrofunk Experience are in the Energy Exchange Business"

The sounds that most of us know as Afrobeat are born out of the crowded streets of West African cities like Lagos, Accra and Abidjan. Combining the polyrhythmic percussion of indigenous West African music with Fenders and brass, Afrobeat trundled up from the underground to denounce dictatorship, corruption and oppression while still treating dancers and music fans to a seriously good time. Sila, hailing from the East African nation of Kenya, has the same mission, but named his own brand of music Afrofunk, an updated sound that incorporates more trace elements of hip-hop and soul. Sila and his Afro Funk Experience are in the energy exchange business: you give it up, they give it back with interest---no bribes involved. Try that trick with a Nigerian policeman. - Metro Santa Cruz

"Smartly Produced and Fun Album."

Kenyan-born, San Francisco-based singer, songwriter and leader of the eight-piece Afrofunk Experience band Victor Sila originally wanted to be an R&B singer. Hints of that remain in his appealingly light and breathy vocals and the shades of Marvin Gaye or even Sade on this new CD. But African styles and rhythms are the heart here, most obviously in the sweet, lilting King Sunny Ade-styled “Dancing Shoes”; a soukous-flavored “Wanibamba,” which borrows from Kanda Bongo Man; and “Ambush,” with its Fela-like Afrobeat sound and social commentary. “Get Up” and “Cry” are rooted in reggae, while “Mandingo” showcases gritty funk. The punchy horn section gives the disc a strong contemporary jazz feel. But if the sources of inspiration are many, the sound is consistent and cohesive. This smartly produced and fun set documents one of a growing number of American-based bands using African styles to create music that is all their own. - GLOBAL RHYTHYM MAGAZINE


Sila and the Afrofunk Experience create music that's like a rubber band ricocheting back and forth across decades and continents. African artists and rhythms influenced many American artists like James Brown and Prince, who the band then listened to and fused with African sounds. Sila leads a talented group of musicians who draw on diverse influences to form a solid, Africanized world beat groove. This group has played with everyone from Spearhead to Ballet National du Senegal. The lineup contains: on djembe, Samba Guisse, on bass SF native Wendell Rand, on horns is the inimitable Mike Pitre, Tai Kenning on drums, guitars by Ken House and David James, percussion by Elvis Nensah, and Jeremiah Kpoh on turntables.

What sets Sila apart more than his voice, his band leadership, or his take on the music is the way he uses all of it to give back to the world. The band is coming off a recent benefit whose profits went to the Save the Children Fund for children in Darfur, Sudan. Sila's blog ( keeps tabs on what our government is doing (or not doing) to help resolve the current crisis, and also celebrates the small victories won along the journey.

This hodgepodge of sound is sure to leave the dancefloor sweating and smiling. In Sila's words "When it comes down to it, all that matters is the music." - SFSTATION.COM

"Impeccably tight, recalling the crisp punch of James Brown, the sweltering groove of the Meters and the irresistibly danceable feel of Prince"

As a group, the Afrofunk Experience is impeccably tight, recalling the crisp punch of James Brown, the sweltering groove of the Meters and the irresistibly danceable feel of Prince. The masterful percussion of Samba Guisse adds subtle texture and syncopation to many of the tracks while dueling guitars spin fela-esque interlocking guitar parts. The real jewel of the band, though, is the horn section. The powerful trio of trumpet, trombone and saxophone expertly nails sparse, punchy lines and screaming solos on the up-beat, funky songs “Boom Boom Boom,” “Funkiest Man in Africa” and the opening track “Got no Money,” “Get No Respect,” while adding beautifully smooth and melancholy riffs over the dubby track “Justice.” On the melodious New Orleans-style “Dancing Shoes,” Sila urges us to forget our worries (to “give in, give up, put on dancing shoes”), as the horns rise in beautiful harmony with weaving guitars and bass over the march of brushed drums. - Miller Nuttle for

"Sila gets down, gets funky"

SAN FRANCISCO - On Sunday, the Grammys enlisted a high-octave pop princess to pay tribute to the late James Brown, but had the Recording Academy considered doing the Godfather of Soul justice, Victor Sila would have been called upon instead.

Let’s just say the “hardest working man in show business” and Sila, the Kenyan-born frontman of the San Francisco-based outfit Sila and the Afrofunk Experience, have a lot more in common than the “Genie in the Bottle” balladeer.

On Saturday, Sila and his fellow funkateers pay tribute to James Brown and afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti at the Independent in San Francisco.

As a child growing up in a small village in Kenya, Sila remembers tuning in to a shortwave radio for the latest pop offerings from the West. By way of a faint, crackling radio signal, Sila first became acquainted with the guttural howls and shrieks of the Minister of Funk.

“One of the first James Brown songs I remember hearing on shortwave radio was ‘I Feel Good.’ Growing up very poor in my village and having a song like that play on the radio was very inspiring,” Sila, 36, says.

His exposure to James Brown, along with such artists as the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, inspired Sila to pursue music, which he says was far from a well-respected profession in Africa.

Despite his career choice, his parents supported his decision and sold cows and goats to raise money for his send-off to the U.S.

Sila’s pursuit of musical stardom was met with the heartbreak of rejection and he eventually found himself lost, an imposter of sorts, singing pedestrian pop tunes while trying to mask a heavy Kenyan accent.

It wasn’t until he stumbled upon a sold-out show by African artist Baaba Maal at the Fillmore that he realized he needed to change course.

“This was the first African artist I saw in concert singing in his own language. He was so full of life. This was the most touching experience for me and I was almost in tears. I had really forgotten who I was,” he says.

Embracing his African roots and his love of funk, Sila channeled James Brown for inspiration and six years later, with the help of his renowned cast of bandmates, he’s achieved success without having to compromise his heritage (he sings in both Swahili and English) or his musical tastes.

“James Brown has always been someone who’s influenced me quite a bit. From his perseverance to his political life and his very poor background, it’s all been an inspiration to me. … His determination and the fact that he never gave up — I see that in me,” Sila says.

“When I came here I never imagined I would sell out venues and entertain people in a way that James Brown entertained me. Believe me, I’m not saying I’m the next James Brown, but I do feel he’s in the soul of music.” - Christina Troup, The San Francisco Examiner

"One of the best world music albums this year"

Sila & the AfroFunk Experience
The Funkiest Man in Africa
By Eric K. Arnold

One of the best world music albums this year comes from our own soil. Kenyan expatriate and SF resident Sila's debut CD with the AfroFunk Experience draws from a wide variety of influences like Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley, and Fela Kuti. It also covers a diverse spectrum of African-inflected sounds — from Nigerian Afrobeat to Congolese soukous to South African township jive to Senegalese Casamance music to Afro-Brazilian samba to Jamaican reggae. The grooves remain focused, though, and Sila's impassioned vocals, sung mainly in English, easily move from Fela-esque sing-speak to traditional call-and-response to poignant balladry. He's just as effective at party-oriented tunes like "Dancing Shoes" as on socially aware anthems. Throbbing melodic lines inform every track, delivered with reggae-style bass lines, soulful guitar runs, extended percussion breaks, and horn arrangements which span the gamut from punchy to melancholy. If he's not the funkiest man in all of Africa, Sila can at least claim that title for the Bay Area. - East Bay Express - Eric K. Arnold

"Hands down one of the most energetic performances I have ever seen"

Hands down one of the most energetic performances I have ever seen; last night Sila and the Afrofunk Experience paid tribute to James Brown and Fela Kuti at the Independent.

Sila and the Afrofunk Experience did not start their set until a painstaking 11:30 p.m. letting the anticipation and excitement of the crowd build up, as if engaged in some sort of tantric exercise.

As I entered the Independent I could only hear chants and roars for “Sila”. Shortly after, the cries began to cease when the “experience” started to assemble on the stage. Letting no more time go to waste, Sila literally jumped right into the swing of things and embodied the soul of James Brown for the next two hours

Amazing how James Brown could have such an influence on a boy originally from Kenya, however the influence is evident in the way Sila carries himself on stage from his shouting vocals to his feverish dancing. Sila’s animation was so transcending that I even saw a lady with crutches starting to dance. Good god the man was healing!

Sila’s stunning performance could not have been as feasible if it was not for the remarkable musicianship of the Afrofunk Experience. Sila had to at times “cool down” the brass and woodwind section because of their mesmerizing impromptus. Adding to the flavor and timbre of the music were the African dancers. Rhythmically interpreting the melodic sound of the bongos, the dancers betrothed in a visual séance that resembled that of African shamans. Sila would interweave between them adding his own soul/funk style to the dancing.

Finally at around sunrise, Sila and the Afrofunk Experience decided to call it quits and ended after their encore performance. However, the groups energy and vibe was fitting for a James Brown tribute because after all it was “the hardest working man in show business” who preached “ give people more than what they came for- make them tired, ‘cause that’s what they came for.” - Nick Blair,


SIla and the Aforufnk Experience: Black President (2009)
Sila and the Afrofunk Experience: The Funkiest Man in Africa (May 2006)
Victor SIla: Waiting (2001)



San Francisco-based singer SILA independently releases his sophomore recording Black President (Visila Records). An album inspired by the historic election of the first African-American U.S. president, whose title track has already been downloaded more than 10,000 times, Black President is currently available in retail outlets and online via iTunes and

Kenyan native SILA has been called a "Kenyan funk master" (San Francisco Chronicle) and"Africa's James Brown" (Oakland Post), SILA draw inspiration from Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti while distinguishing themselves by incorporating African genres such as zouk and soukous, as well as the music of Western artists including Sly Stone and Funkadelic. Black President finds the ensemble moving further toward progress and change in both their lives and their music, with blossoming musical chemistry, deep funky Afro-grooves and strong socially-conscious, politically-aware lyrics.

SILA began writing material for Black President prior to the November 2008 election of President Barack Obama. The prospect of the first African-American U.S. president raised hopes not only in America but internationally as well. As Sila explains, ‚"Many Africans believe that Obama is African and he owns his lineage and heritage to Africa. He is a son of Africa; it is in his heart and in the blood of his children. His roots are in Kenya.‚"Obama's historic victory, and the promise that holds for U.S.-African relations, is depicted in the album cover art by painter Jarrod Eastman, which shows a casually dressed and relaxed Obama holding Africa in his hands, the continent illuminated from the inside by the sun

Barack Obama, James Brown and Fela Kuti offer an iconic trinity of musical, cultural, political and ideological influences on Black President. Like Kuti, Sila connects personal issues with larger social and political ideas, and echoes of classic Afrobeat are evident in the Afrofunk Experience's call-and response choruses, highly syncopated percussion, blazing horns and incessant grooves. Brown's inspiration can be heard in Sila's shrieks and screams as well as the band's punchy horns, chicken-scratch guitar and funky bass lines. In the title track, the band chugs along with a locomotive-like groove while Sila riffs on the imperative for change which swept Obama to victory. Other emotionally-charged songs address the global AIDS epidemic, neo-colonialism and political corruption, tribalism in African society and warmongering among Western nations, and explore influences from kinky reggae to Latin-tinged rhythms to Motown-y pop/soul stylings.

A musical and artistic breakthrough, Black President reflects a deeper realization of the band's ever-evolving identity. To paraphrase Fela's famous credo, SILA want to use music as a weapon for peace and cultural education. "My goal on the album was to reach out to the younger generation, who have never heard of Baaba Maal or Youssou N'Dour," Sila explains. "I want to make African music hip to young people."

SILA won "Outstanding World Music Albumr" at the 2010 NAACP image Awards, 2009 San Francisco Weekly Music Awards for "Best International act" and has played such prestigious events as the inaugural Outside Lands Music Festival, Stern Grove Festival, Fillmore Jazz Festival (headliners for five years in a row including at the 25th Annual festival occurring on July 4 & 5, 2009), and Berkeley Jazz Music Festival. The band's current lineup consists of tenor saxophonist Roger Cox , bassist Mike Shiono guitarist Khalil Doak-Anthony, drummer Bennie Murray, trombonist Andre Webb, and master African percussionists Karamba Kouyate (from Guinea) and Samba Guisse (from Senegal).

In keeping with his mission to combine music with humanitarian efforts, SILA has for the past five years co-produced the Afrofunk Festival, raising musical consciousness among audiences from Seattle to San Diego to raise much-needed funds for education, medical, and health services for East African children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Playing benefit shows, Sila explains, is his way‚ to stay connected to other people, to remember that it's not only about us but community." For tour dates and more information on SILA, please visit