By Marc Bruner
What does Benin (formerly Dahomey), a small West African nation, have in common with New Orleans? Perhaps more than you’d think. Just listen to Whendo, the latest release from Gangbe Brass Band, a ten-piece band that blends traditional African percussion and call and response vocals with a jazzy big brass sound. The result is music that is fresh, playful, joyous, and soulful. Many of the songs would fit right in on a New Orleans street corner.
The connection goes a long way back and is perhaps not all that surprising. Slaves from Dahomey brought with them to Haiti their voodoo traditions, including ritual dancing and singing, which ultimately made their way to New Orleans.
There are other connections and influences as well. Various songs on Whendo recall Afrobeat, Juju music, Afro-Cuban jazz, and even bebop. Check out the Gangbe Brass Band, and see (and hear) just how small a place the world really is.