NOMO | 08.05.08 | San Francisco

By: Jim Welte

NOMO :: 08.05.08 :: Bottom of the Hill :: San Francisco, CA

Fela Kuti was just the starter kit.

The Nigerian Afrobeat legend has influenced countless Western acts in the past decade, from direct descendants like Antibalas and Kokolo to hip-hop groups like The Roots and electronic producers like Masters At Work. But, in recent years, a number of bands have looked to expand their palette of African influences, with Brooklyn's Budos Band turning to Ethiopian jazz master Mulatu Astatke and Asheville's Toubab Krewe rooting their music in the desert blues of Ali Farka Toure.

Now it's Central Africa's turn, with Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Afrojazz collective NOMO plugging electric thumb pianos (kalimbas) into a sound already infused with the music of Fela and Sun Ra and a host of effects and electronics.

In an 80-minute set at the Bottom of the Hill, the seven member group mixed music school chops with an array of influences, including Can and Miles Davis' electric era, for a sound that paid homage to its ancestors but paved its own road as well.

The first thing that jumped out as the band took the stage was the three mini-drum kits at the back of their setup. There were also myriad percussion instruments scattered about, and each member helped drive the rhythm at one time or another.

However, though grooves filled the room, this was no mere drum circle, dance party. Founder, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Elliot Bergman has made sure of that by mastering a horde of different gadgets, from the squeal-inducing effects box that kicked off the set to a variety of distortion-tinged kalimbas that appeared throughout the night. Most of the devices were handmade by members of NOMO, and the band was selling several kalimbas at its merch table.

The band's looks - young and white, with the exception of bassist Jamie Register, a Meshell Ndegeocello-look-a-like - belied its ferocity. Bergman's wayward demeanor made it easy to miss the fact that he was a virtual one-man band, shifting from organ to alto sax to kalimba to percussion, often in the course of a single song. He played the role of sonic scientist quite well, nudging his bandmates into tempo changes and soliciting scorching solos from trumpeter Justin Walter and baritone saxophonist Dan Bennet.

The most telling song of the night, the title track to the band's sophomore album, Ghost Rock, proved a potent reminder of the group's potential. The swirling horns, thumping bassline and lush organ were all there. But there was nary a conga to be found - it was all high hats and snares - on a song that was as much rock as it was jazz.

The influences were all laid bare, from the obvious to the subtle, but Bergman and company cultivated a sound that was more than the sum of its parts. This was one band's proposal for the future of jazz.

JamBase | Northern California
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[Published on: 8/25/08]

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durazno Mon 8/25/2008 03:59PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


saw them at bonnaroo at some very small tent, and the blew my brain off GREAT JAMS, SWEET HORNS

gmoo Tue 8/26/2008 05:56AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Ann Arbor loves NOMO! Keep doin' it.

keeno Tue 8/26/2008 06:08AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Ann Arbor is a whore! Go Bucky!!!!!

lovemusicfood starstarstarstar Tue 8/26/2008 06:36AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Out of the recent American Afrobeat explosion I'd say Nomo is very good but not great. They have however gotten better each of times I have seen them. They were using some beat sampling mixed with live drums when I saw them recently in Philly, which was cool.

MyFavBandIsTheBestYoursSucks starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/26/2008 08:32AM
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Great bands mentioned. I also highly recommend Chicago Afrobeat Project.

brienza66 Tue 8/26/2008 08:40AM
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im a die hard afrobeat fan. Im glad to see all the new bands popping up and putting their own spin on fela's gift to us all. For those truely into the music and the message, and in the NYC area there is a great off broadway musical simply entitled: Fela! I suggest all fans go see it and enjoy the show. Some of the guys from Antibalas play the music so you know its solid in musical aspect.

minderbinder Tue 8/26/2008 09:35AM
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Budos Band is from Staten Island. Also try the Superpowers from Boston; the beats they are tight.

briank67 starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/26/2008 12:19PM
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saw these guys at wicker park fest in chicago, and Can also came to mind...lots of percussion with a weird trippy feeling to everything. i also recommend chicago afrobeat project!!

iwantstogetfunkedup Tue 8/26/2008 02:34PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

As long as we're givin it up for Afrobeat bands across the country I have to give it up for ALBINO! from S.F. Sickest live afrobeat experience I've ever seen. Their originals are great as well as covers by Daktaris, etc.

Lerxst20 starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/26/2008 08:29PM
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You were not the only one in that tent that was blown away. If it were not for the spectacle that was Sigur Ros, Nomo would have been my favourite set of the festival.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/27/2008 04:43AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

daptone records, brooklyn NY.

sharon jones, the budos band. sugarman three.

poets of rhythm

the daktaris

the mighty imperials.

its all GOOD!!!! super soul funky schtuff!!!

ira7420 starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/27/2008 08:15AM
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This band rules, saw them in NOHO last fall! Found them on Pandora under The Motet station, thanks Pandora.