"The King of contemporary funk" - San Francisco Chronicle
“James Brown’s dance floor boogie strut infused with the manic drumming and serpentine guitar jams of Sila’s native Kenya.” -San Francisco Magazine
"One of the most phenomenal horn sections around" - East Bay Express
“Guaranteed to keep you glued to the dance floor.” -San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Mixing the legendary sounds of Fela Kuti with some tricks gleaned from James Brown and P-Funk, Sila and company create a dancefloor-ready throb guaranteed to move you.” -SF Weekly
“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.” - San Francisco Examiner
“Bay Area dance kings Sila and the Afrofunk Experience combine an international vision with dazzling musicianship. Frontman Sila Mutungi rivets audiences with a combination of James Brown’s punchy grooves and Fela Kuti’s West African swing. Their debut The Funkiest Man in Africa blows away listeners with its relentless rhythm and sharp songcraft, but can’t prepare you for the band’s potent onstage energy.”-East Bay Express
“Sila and his Afrofunk 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.” -Santa Cruz Sentinel
Led by Kenyan native Victor Sila Matungi, a frontman who has been called a “Kenyan funk master” (San Francisco Chronicle) and“Africa’s James Brown” (Oakland Post), Sila & the Afrofunk Experience 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 & the Afrofunk Experience want to use music as a weapon for peace and cultural education.
Sila & the Afrofunk Experience won “Funk Artist of the Year” at the 2007 Los Angeles Music Awards, and have played such prestigious events as the inaugural Outside Lands Music Festival, Stern Grove Festival, Fillmore Jazz Festival, and Berkeley Jazz Music Festival. The band’s current lineup consists of tenor saxophonist David Boyce (a founder of Afro-futurist jazz ensemble the Broun Fellinis), bassist Wendell Rand, guitarists Ken House and David James, drummer Bennie Murray, trumpeter Mike Pitre, 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 four 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.”