Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Web site: http://www.albinoband.com
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ALBINO! is a San Francisco-based, 12-piece Afrobeat ensemble that honors the fiery legacy of Nigerian musical icon and political outlaw Fela Kuti. ALBINO!’s high-energy grooves and explosive stage show thick with hypnotic percussion, heavy horns, African dance, wild costumes and elaborate group choreography won the band top honors at the SF Music Awards for “Best World Music” and have firmly established the band as the West Coast’s premier Afrobeat act.
Armed with Fela Kuti’s three musical weapons of choice, front man Michael Bello contributes lead vocals, saxes, and keyboards to ALBINO!’s intricately layered groove. Bello’s deep vocal growl gives potent, stout-hearted resonance to the band’s socially conscious lyrical messages, another key component of the Afrobeat tradition.
The four-piece ALBINO! horn section’s boldly-syncopated barrage packs a killer knockout whallop, countered in turn by the ecstatic heights of their individual solo improvisations. Alongside Bello on tenor sax and flute is ALBINO! co-founder Nathan Endsley, a former contributor to the trance/world-beat ensemble Hamsa Lila. Riding the upper reaches of the section’s spectrum is trumpeter Chris Brown. Baritone saxophonist Pat Byers, formerly of the globe trotting pan-African funk group Aphrodesia, fattens up the horn
section’s “heavy heavy” bottom end.
Anchoring the ALBINO! rhythm section from behind the drum kit is Jon Arkin. Arkin mastered the funky subtleties of Afrobeat rhythm under the tutelage of Friday Jumbo, Nigerian conga wizard from Fela Kuti’s seminal Africa 70 band, and also a frequent ALBINO! guest performer. Dancer/chekere player Kim Agnew fuses West African, Cuban, and Salsa dance styles into her uniquely electrifying style of rhythm and motion. Agnew currently performs with several folklore companies and teaches a multi-cultural dance and music outreach program for inner city youth with The San Francisco Ballet.
Tenor guitarist Cal Reichenbach is a seasoned teacher and producer who also performs in the jazz funk group SOCKET, and occasionally tours with Aphrodesia. On rhythm guitar is Jacob Groopman, an accomplished jazz and bluegrass and guitarist from the Oberlin Conservatory. Bassist Mark Calderon, a native of New York, also performs with Vusi Mahlasela, Zigaboo Modeliste, Leo Nocentelli, and Shana Morrison.
Splitting conga duties in ALBINO! are percussionists Treviño Léon And Matthew Smith. Léon, originally from Cuba, has been a professional drummer in the Ewe tradition of Ghana for nearly 3 decades, and he also performs in CK Ladzekpo’s West African Music and Dance Ensemble. Smith has spent the last 12 years developing his Afro-Cuban technique with percussion masters in Ghana, Mexico, NY, and SF, and also busy with SF Afro jam outfit The Flux.
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