Interview with Toubab Krewe before last year's Jam Cruise
Miami is all-too-familiar Caribbean rhythms and booty-busting tropical beats, but this weekend, these sounds will be replaced with those of koras and djembes. On July 21, 7th Circuit Studios will house the 14th Annual Afro Roots World Music Festival, headlining Afro-pop jam band Toubab Krewe.
The West African-influenced act from Asheville, North Carolina, is an interesting pick for the festival. It's a quintet of white dudes not from Africa. But as we learned when speaking with them last year
, they definitely have grown some African roots. We caught up with bassist David Pransky, currently a Miami resident, to talk about the festival, the follow up to 2010's TK2
, and whether it is possible for a song to be too long.
New Times: You're playing the Afro Roots World Music Festival at 7th Circuit Studios this weekend. Would you say the musical aesthetics of the festival are attuned to your own?
David Pransky: I would imagine so. I don't know much about the history of the Afro Roots Music Festival, but I do know Jose Elias [the event organizer] very well, and he's a friend of mine. A lot of these guys in the community here are bands we see throughout the year in different places around the country. When I moved to Miami two years ago, I linked up with those guys I saw on the touring circuit.
You've spent a lot of time in Africa. Can you tell us the craziest story of traveling there?
One of the most amazing experiences we had was performing at Festival au Desert in Mali. It's a four-day music festival. Getting to travel there was crazy. We flew from Mali to Timbuktu in this old '64 Russian propeller jet. It was nerve-racking to say the least. Then we hopped in this three-wheel drive vehicle and just took off to the middle of the Sahara Desert for a six-hour trip. We were stuck in the sand five to seven times. It was a journey but an amazing journey at that. There were musicians from all over Africa and people from all over the world.
The band is headlining the festival this year. Do you guys approach a show any differently when you are headlining compared to when you're a supporting act? Are there any inherent differences for you as performers?
No, not really. You have to respect the music. We've always had that mindset from the beginning. Every show is different. The energy from every audience is different. A lot of the energy, we get from the audience. If we're not getting that energy from the audience, then we gotta find that in ourselves.
We have a motto: Ten or 10,000. We respect the music and put all of our love, passion, and energy into it. At the end of any show, we end up coming out smiling.
Your most recent album, TK2, was released in 2010. What can fans expect from your next album? Is there one planned?
We've put the beginnings of a summer EP together. We've done some recording in Brooklyn and down here in Miami. I think the mindset now is putting together as much music as we can and getting it out. Some stuff will go on the EP; some stuff we'll probably just put out online for free. The goal right now is just getting the music to the people.
Many of your songs are over four minutes and feature complex rhythm patterns. Are there certain parameters you guys approach your songwriting process with?
Not really. We do a lot of writing together. A lot of it is one idea somebody's put together. And we'll build from there. Sometimes the songs are very detailed. But other times, they're really basic.
We really don't push anything. We just let things come to us. These days, as the music's evolving, we're doing a lot of vocals. The main thing with Toubab Krewe is we just let the spirit and inspiration evolve.
Is it possible to have a song that is too long?
[without hesitation] Definitely.
You already posted several upcoming festival dates on your website (Floyd Fest, Gnarnia Music Festival, Manifestivus). Are there any particular dates you're really excited about?
Probably the Manifestivus festival. That's in Vermont, where I grew up. My mother is kind enough to let 2,500 people rage up there once a year. This will be the tenth year I've put on the festival. We call it a local festival with a global vibe. Huge crowds overseas get to come to my backyard. It's evolved into a pretty cool gig up there.
Toubab Krewe with Sanba Zao, Cortadito, Nag Champayons, and others at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at the Afro Roots World Music Festival, 7th Circuit Studios, 228 NE 59th St., Miami. Visit communityartsandculture.org.