Chicago’s Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l plays classic Central and West African dance music—specializing in soukous, Highlife, Rumba, Dry Guitar, and other delights from the great continent. The multi-racial band mixes their backgrounds in traditional African music, jazz, and underground rock to bring these classic sounds to life. The group has been winning over a diverse audience of listeners, dancers and rockers, and causing a buzz among established African music critics (all ready on 2007some top 10 lists)! Word of the group’s electrifying live shows is spreading as they play sold-out shows with Afropop legend Oliver Mtukudzi and art-pop superstar Andrew Bird. The group recently played another sold-out show in March appearing as a featured group in Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music’s Afrofolk series.
The band began by covering the songs of Congolese greats Mwenda Jean Bosco, Franco, and Bantous de la Capitale, and their debut cd features many of these tunes. Now the group is writing original songs that incorporate their mastery of the old style with the singing of Ghanaian Kofi Cromwell. Kofi sings in a haunting mixture of English and his mother tongue, Twi. The cd is distributed by Thrill Jockey. They are at work on a new record featuring concert favorites and new original songs.
Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock leads the group. Braddock teaches African guitar at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and is a veteran of Chicago’s jazz and independent rock scene, playing with Ancient Greeks, Edith Frost, and the Zincs. Braddock is joined by Greg Ward on alto saxophone. Ward is a rising star of Chicago’s jazz scene, playing with Hamid Drake, Ernest Dawkins, and the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble. Handling trumpet and vocal duties is Kofi Cromwell of the much-celebrated Western Diamonds (voted Ghana’s best highlife band three years in a row). Fellow Western Diamond Daniel “Rambo” Asamoah brings his energetic style to the trap drums. Joshua Ramos, also of Liquid Soul plays upright bass. The band is often joined by Chicago’s young star congero Jean LeRoy.
The OBDBI has performed at Chicago’s 2006 World Music Festival, the 2005 and 2006 Folk & Roots Festivals, the 2005 and 2006 Bucktown Arts Festival, the HotHouse, Rodan, the Logan Square Auditorium, and the Chicago Cultural Center. Their monthly gigs at Chicago’s Charleston have become legendary dance parties. Chicago Public Radio recently showcased the band in studio working out a cover tune of the New Order tune “Bizarre Love Triangle” which has since become an internet hit! See why the group is making so many fans and critics top ten lists for 2007!