Music delights in the unpredictable. Take Australian band The Bamboos, for instance. The one-time dance club quartet from Melbourne, inspired by and later darlings of London’s ‘Deep Funk’ scene, have just finished up touring their homeland as… openers for Robbie Williams.
“They were a great crowd,” reflects an amused group leader Lance Ferguson via Skype, when I take the early chance to rib him on the subject. “I guess they had faith in Robbie’s curation of a full evening of entertainment. And the good part was, for most of these shows, that the crowd showed up early and so were able to see us. We weren’t playing to one-quarter-filled venues. There is some slight crossover too: he has a big horn section in his band and there is some link in that UK soul-influenced rock-pop aspect to his music. It really worked out OK.”
If you still haven’t, do please Google The Suffers’ performance on the David Letterman US TV show from 2015. Aside from a great workout from the band, led by a strutting, personality-filled front-up by vocalist Kam Franklin, the other remarkable thing about it is Letterman’s reaction at the end. With the studio audience going ape-shit, the host strolls across from his desk, beaming smile in place and bawls, ‘If you can’t do this, get outta the business!’ – much to the delight of Kam and her mates. The best thing about it is it really looks like he meant it.
“Yes, I think it was genuine,” recalls Kam happily across Skype from the band’s hometown in Houston, Texas. “What normally would happen on his show, the band would be out there while he was rehearsing his jokes, so he’d be familiar with what they did. But the day we did it everything was running behind and so they weren’t able to let him see us until the audience saw us too. So his reaction was 100% real… ”
Nate Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation, a gripping account of the life of Nat Turner, a slave who led a bloody revolt against his masters in Virginia in 1831, made much ink flow upon its release in 2016. The subject matter, showing how little black lives mattered in the antebellum South, resonated with ongoing debates over race relations in America, which were further fuelled by President Trump’s graceless overtures to white supremacists. Saxophonist Kamasi Washington was moved by the resolve of the central character. Turner did not put self-interest before collective wellbeing.
“Yeah, it really tackled the idea of complacency, because he had a relationship with his slave master where he didn’t have it ‘bad’, not like Frederick Douglass did,” Washington states very calmly.
Alborosie’s latest album is called Unbreakable. It’s shared with three founder members of Bob Marley’s band The Wailers, who’ve finally got the chance to prove they’re still capable of making good music, despite having recorded precious little in the years since Marley’s death.
There are multiple reasons why the group that played on Time magazine’s ‘Album Of The Century’ [Exodus] and the BBC’s ‘Song Of The Millennium’ [One Love] have been virtually inactive since Marley died – disunity, lack of direction and proper management included. The original members had grown demoralised after being marginalised by the Marley Estate. The Wailers had become a tribute band of sorts, touring the world behind the songs that made Bob Marley famous, but having little identity of their own. That said, things have changed since Family Man’s son Aston Junior took up stewardship of The Wailers…