Mulatta Records is proud to present the first in a series of world-music releases. Mandeng Eletrik began when WOFA, a 7-piece African percussion/balafon ensemble from Guinea-Conakry, visited New York City and announced that they were eager to meet and play with musicians from the local jazz, R&B and improvisation scenes. A special jam-session was arranged and recorded. The NY cast included Will Calhoun (drums & electronic-wave drum), Bill Ware (vibraphone), Bernie Worrell (keyboards), Charles Burnham (violin), William Galison (harmonica) and Damon Banks (electric bass).
The genesis of this session was not unlike that of Art Blakey's Afro-percussion Jazz Ensemble during the 60's, or Max Roach's M'Boom ensemble. But similarities end there, as the presence of a sizable African ensemble provided a focus for improvisation and a point of departure for the entire session.
The next stage of production enlisted the talents of electronic dance music producer Sasha Crnobrnja (Organic Grooves), who mixed, edited and digitally enhanced the beats on five of the songs from the session. These five remixes were then "re-Africanized" with overdub instruments and vocals from celebrated Mandeng musicians based in New York City. These included Tapani Sissoko, a renowned Malian female griot singer who composed lyrics and sang on two of the remixes, Bailo Bah, a noted exponent of the tambin (a Fulani flute that allows the player to vocalize while playing,) and balafon (African xylophone) by virtuoso Famoro Dioubate. Both of the latter hail from Guinea-Conakry and are members of Fula Flute -they performed as a duo on two other songs. Tigist Shibabaw (Ethiopian singing star Gigi's younger sister) adapted a holiday-celebration chant from her homeland for the final remixed track, adding another Pan-African flavor to an already varied oeuvre. Finally, Takuya Nakamura (Organic Grooves) played keyboard solos on two tunes and Dave Soldier (Soldier String Quartet) contributed a violin solo.
Wofa's music is based upon Mandeng and Suso traditions. Mandeng Eletrik's vivid hybridization of these and other acoustic sounds are embellished by electronic dance and improvisational jazz but the African essence is never muted or compromised. Despite creative remixes and overdubs, the voice of the Continent emerges loud and clear.
WOFA, an ensemble of seven percussionists/singers from the Soussou ethnic group, from the coastal region of Guinea-Conakry. Formed in 1993 to seek new and adventurous ways of expressing their musical traditions different from the traditional repertoire of their alma mater, 'Percussions de Guinee' National Ensemble. They have a distinct sound from their peers from their use of instruments peculiar to their village. The typical Mandeng (the largest ethnic group of the region) instruments of Balafon and Djembe drums are made equal partners to the unusual Wassakhoumba - a calabash discs castanet, the Kirin-yi - a slit drum, and the Gongoma - a 5 blade thumb piano on an oblong wooden resonating box. They maintain a yearly world tour and otherwise they stay in their village, making instruments and performing for ceremonies
WILL CALHOUN (drums/electronic percussion): "Living Colors" founding member, whose versatility has been proven in performances and recordings with disparate world, pop and jazz artists - Hassan Hakmoun, Sussan Deyhim, Herb Alpert and Mos Def, to name a few.
BILL WARE (Vibraphone): A staple of the NY-downtown jazz scene and a founder of the Acid (Funk) Jazz movement via his membership of "The Groove Collective" and " The Brooklyn Funk Essentials". Bill also leads his own acclaimed group, 'VIBES 4'.
BERNIE WORRELL (Keyboards): Ex- Parliament/Funkadelic and "Talking Heads". A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member. A renowned innovator who still leads his band, The Woo Warriors.
CHARLES BURNHAM (Violins): Fiddler extraordinaire has been a member of String Trio of NY, James 'Blood' Ulmers' Band, and Jai Uttal's Ensemble and the Kropotkins (also on Mulatta Records). He is renowned for his technique in adapting country and old-time style fiddling into an avant-garde context.
WILLIAM GALISON (Harmonica): He has performed with artists as diverse as rock legend Sting, Eddie Gomez and Les Paul and Brazilian stars Astrud Gilberto and Toninho Horta. Recently, made his classical debut, on Gordon Jacob's "Suite for Harmonica and Orchestra".
DAMON BANKS (Bass): Performs and records with Moroccan fusion artist, Hassan Hakmoun, and Asian-Electronic artist, Karsh Kale.
SASHA CRNOBRNJA: Founder of Organic Grooves, an electronic dance ensemble consisting of musicians and DJs whose style is influenced by dub-reggae, rhythm&blues and ethnic percussion rhythms. He previously re-mixed and produced African Kora melodies from the Gambia, with Saliu Suso.
TAPANI SISSOKO: A Malian jali (Griot) singer and lyricist who has been in the bands of many famous musicians including Toumani Diabate and Kandia Kouyate. She performs in New York with the Super Manden.
BAILO BAH: Master of the Fula flute or Tambin, from the Peule (Fulani) people of Guinea. He has performed all over West Africa and learned the repertoire of the Manden people. He was a member of Ballet Koteba of Ivory Coast. He presently performs with the Fula Flute Ensemble of New York City.
FAMORO DIOUBATE:This Balafon master is this grandson of the legendary Djeli Sory Kouyate, one of the most renowned musicians in Guinea. He has performed with the popular singer/kora player, Mory Kante and in New York, and is often called to collaborate with contemporary composers at the Julliard school. He also plays with the Fula Flute Ensemble.
TIGIST SHIBABAW: Singer and lyricist from Ethiopia, is featured in the new-traditional music ensemble, Abyssinia Infinite, led by her sister Gigi. Their debut album 'Zion Roots' is considered by many as one of the best world music albums of 2003. Tigist will be featured in the upcoming Ellipsis Arts compilation, 'African Dreams'.
TAKUYA NAKAMURA: Trumpet and keyboards player from Organic Grooves, also plays with a live 'drum 'n bass' ensemble, Nerve.
DAVE SOLDIER: Violinist and composer, is the founder/leader of the Soldier String Quartet, Kropotkins, and Thai Elephant Orchestra.
AYODAPO OSINIBI: The producer of the project, managed a World music/Electronic Music store, Multi Kulti, for many years in Manhattan. He also DJs as DJ El Hwa.