Occidental Brothers: Odo Sanbra

By: Nathan Rodriguez

Not gonna lie: first reaction – sounds like Kenny G sitting in with String Cheese.

After a few spins, Occidental Brothers Dance Band International’s Odo Sanbra’s lofty polyrhythmic harmonies insinuate themselves a bit more. What upon first blush sounded a little too easy began to sound effortless.

Opener "Nyenko!" is attention grabbing as the band slides into double-time toward the end of the tune, while the next two tracks are fairly innocuous. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, comes the OMGWTFBBQ moment of the album - a cover of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." It’s a stretch to bridge the gap between a mid-80s pop tune and traditional music from Ghana, but damned if those Occidental Brothers didn't find a way.

"Bizarre Love Triangle" will probably get the most play, but the real gem is "Masanga." Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock's nimble picking to open the song is transfixing with a slight Latin bent that echoes some of Buena Vista Social Club's finest work. Everything comes together in a tightly wound structure that somehow unfolds with the easy beauty of a music box.

The disc finishes strong enough to make you wonder if you were just getting used to the band or the tracks were really that much stronger. OBDBI chose the middle of the road between big-ass Afrobeat sounds and the sparse instrumentation of music reduced to its basic elements. The result is a sound that takes a little breaking in, but becomes pretty damn comfortable before you know it.

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[Published on: 5/22/09]

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