Bokanté is one of the many incarnations of Texas musician Michael League, leader of the jazz-rock band Snarky Puppy. We saw him at the Montreal Jazz Festival in two different incarnations. With the whole band and with three musicians.
Bokanté is what some would call world music, an expression I detest. With musicians from different continents. Mainly singer Malika Tyrolien from Guadeloupe and Montreal. I admit it: after two albums, including one with Vienna’s dazzling Metropolitan Orchestra, I wondered if this group could still create something new. The answer is yes, without a doubt. Bokanté doesn’t reinvent itself, but matures, like an excellent cheese. Aged like a fine wine. With History, Bokanté still has things to say.
Are we in the Antilles, the Sahara or Arizona? We don’t know, because the band takes us to all these places at once. All to our delight. Bokanté is a strange mix of vocals, percussion and guitars. With three guitarists (Roosevelt Collier, Bob Lanzetti, Chris McQueen), four percussionists (Weedie Braimah, André Ferrari, Jamey Haddad Kuwaiti, Keita Ogawa) and, in the middle, Malika Tyrolien with multiple voices and Michael League on bass, but also on oud, that Maghrebian instrument. It has to be said here that Malika Tyrolien, from Guadeloupe, has never sounded so good, her suave voice, which makes her own harmonies infinite, more assured. She writes most of the lyrics, mostly in Creole, but also in French.
And there’s all that percussion: congas, darbuka, kanjira, surdo, krakeb, djebé, bells and a score of others. And the wall of electric and steel guitars. And everything blends, mixes and complements each other, with excellent studio treatment. A work of art. It’s great, mind-opening music. Michael League is truly one of the most interesting musicians of his generation. And “our” Malika Tyrolien has not finished surprising us.