One of the best twinbills of the year is happening this Sept 1 at 7 PM at an unlikely spot, Baby’s All Right on the south side of Williamsburg, where psychedelic Afrobeat band Super Yamba share a bill with the rousingly soulful Harlem Gospel Travelers. The venue has reopened and the bands’ publicist advises that there are no restrictions; cover is $15 for what promises to be an awesome dance party. The venue webpage isn’t clear on who’s playing first, but it doesn’t matter because both acts are worth sticking around for.
Super Yamba have been one of the best party bands in town for several years. Kaleta, their frontman brings a deep background to the music after getting his start in Nigeria as a sideman with King Sunny Ade and then Fela Kuti in the late 70s.
Super Yamba’s most recent album Medaho came out in 2019 and is streaming at Soundcloud. The title means “big brother,” but in a good way. It’s a shout-out from Kaleta to his older brother, who is tragically no longer with us but was responsible for introducing the bandleader to Afrobeat.
The album is best appreciated as a cohesive whole, ideally with everybody on their feet. Throughout the playlist, organ swirls and blips tightly over strutting bass and drums. The opening number, Gogo Rock has a long, sinuous wah-wah solo from the bandleader. Track two, Mr. Diva has bitingly catchy minor-key brass riffage that Kaleta artfully picks up with his guitar as the song winds along, and a grittily insistent vocal: there’s no mistaking this for a dis!
Briskly stepping rhythms circle through Hungry Man, Angry Man as the organ keens and chirps overhead. The album’s title track is an edgy, practically punk jam with deep-space wah guitar and a clattering, circular groove. The band work a tastily quadrangulated, understated call-and-response from bass, to guitar, to organ and then horns in the next track, Goyitò
The rhythms get trickier in Jibiti, then the band kick into the Super Yamba Theme, pulsing along on the album’s catchiest bassline and stabbing horn interplay. It’s also the album’s most hypnotic interlude.
Adjotò is a big concert favorite and the most intense, careening number here. The band take the album out in a blaze of brass and staccato distorted guitar in La Gueule (Afro-French insult: “shut up”).
This blog has been in the house at several Super Yamba shows, in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The most recent one was a private event in Williamsburg in the fall of 2019; whether playing for the public or just the cognoscenti, they jam like crazy.