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For the past decade, the standard fare of the jam band scene has come from bands trying to establish themselves as heirs to the thrones abdicated by the Grateful Dead and Phish. While acts like Umphreys McGee and STS9 certainly have attempted to push the genre in new directions, it can become difficult to find fresh sounds amidst the dank haze of patchouli, drum jams, tie-dye, and drugs imbibed, injected, or inhaled.

But in 2005 Toubab Krewe emerged from the hills of Appalachia, armed with a sound no one other jam band had explored: a self-described blending of American and West African influences. Imagine Ali Farka Touré and the String Cheese Incident jamming together and you'll start to get a slight hint of Toubab Krewe's potential.

This instrumental group from Asheville, NC does not merely dabble, however, in the exotic sounds of Africa. Having apprenticed themselves to master musicians on a trip throughout West Africa and learning to play native instruments with surprising skill and ease, the five members of Toubab Krewe can lay claim to an understanding of the power and possibility of the West African sound.

Among the traditional instruments played by Justin Perkins and Drew Heller are the kora, the kamelengoni, and the soku. Each instrument contributes and collaborates well, and the African riffs from the guitarist exhibit energy and passion. Percussionists Teal Brown and Luke Quaranta, playing the djembe and other African drums as well as the drumset, maintain a propulsive rhythm section along with bassist David Pransky. Like the guitar work, the rhythm section occasionally uses motifs from their peers in the jam band scene but often abandons them in favor of exploring the intrigue of the African polyrhythms.

Some songs to watch for during the set will be "Hang Tan," "Devil Woman," "51 Ft. Ladder," and "Kaira." These songs don't dilute the African essence like Vampire Weekend's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa;" the band prefers to bring it out in full with energy and dedication that promise to increase in a live performance. Head over to the Live Music Archive (www.archive.org), a great resource for other bands as well, for proof. 

Toubab Krewe, despite having released only two albums during a four-year existence, already displays the cohesion and understanding of a much older band. They're already Bonnaroo veterans and will perform again at Tennessee's most liberal locale this June. When they take the stage on Saturday afternoon, be prepared to watch the future of the jam band scene, dance to some incredible West African-American grooves, and wonder why Pandora puts music from melancholic Explosions in the Sky on the same station as the lively Toubab Krewe.


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