The Occidental Brothers’ blend of high-energy soukous, rootsy Ghananian Highlife and African Jazz conjures sounds of the golden age of the African guitar band and has made them favorites of music critics, but their sound has seduced an audience as diverse as the members of this multi-ethnic band. Founded in Chicago by American-born musicians, the group has included former members of Ghanaian superstars the Western Diamonds, TPOK Jazz’s Jonal Buya Lutete, Zambian roots and reggae artist Mathew Tembo, and Congolese legend Samba Mapangala
In 2014, OBDBI leader Nathaniel Braddock relocated to Sydney, Australia, and the group began a two year hiatus which ends in 2016 with the return of Braddock to North America and a reunion with singer Samba Mapangala. The group releases a new cd, “Hunters” later this year.
Braddock was a faculty member at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music for ten years and is a veteran of Chicago’s indie rock scene. He co-founded the group with jazz phenomenon Greg Ward on alto. Joshua Ramos joins on bass and Makaya McCraven on drums who along with Ward are among the most in-demand musicians in the New York and Chicago jazz scenes receiving international acclaim in 2015 with their many projects. Braddock’s former student Antonio Carella joins on second guitar and the sound is filled with the bubbling interplay of the soukous polyphony.
Their last cd, “Odo Sanbra”, was much praised—making even Robert Christgau’s Dean’s List 2009 and earning praise as the best African band in North America. Their forthcoming cd, “Hunters”, takes its name from Matthew Tembo’s lyric for the song “Ashabinda”. The cd features both Tembo and Samba Mapangala on lead vocals, though the group’s 2012 performances had the young Zambian taking all lead vocal duties. The cd is scheduled for release in 2013.
The Occidental Brothers energize festival stages, including Pitchfork 2008, GlobalFest 2009, the Montreal and Vancouver Jazz Festivals 2009, Toronto Afrofest 2010, and the Chicago Jazz Fest 2011. Other performances include Chicago’s Millennium Park, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. The band is currently booking 2013 performances in North America, Africa, and Europe.
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