Bukuru Celestin & Snarky Puppy – Amkeni (2013)
So, this is interesting; a couple of days ago, a friend posted this link to my Facebook page. He was introduced to them because I reviewed their album GroundUP. Well, it was my very first review on this blog and interesting to revisit it.
Snarky Puppy are an American musical collective, rather than a specific band, centring around bassist Michael League. The shear number of musicians involved has led to them having a multifaceted sound on previous albums, mostly focusing on jazz and funk, but incorporating elements from rock and music from around the globe.
It seems there could be no more perfect companion band to accompany singer Bukuru Celestin. Celestin arrived from Burundi to the USA in 2008 and is a music student at Virginia Western Community College. He, along with his sisters, specialises in afrobeat-inspired gospel.
The combination is sublime; from the disco-funk stylings of Shima to the afrobeat/gospel of Amkeni. There is not a single track that is a disappointment. Each is exciting and so perfectly realised. One striking thing is that this is not Snarky Puppy with a guest singer; this is all about Bukuru Celestin, these tracks are written by him and focus on him as the singer. Snarky Puppy provide the framework and support, but this is Celestin through and through.
His voice is fantastic and complemented so well by the choral work from his sisters. Snarky Puppy are, as expected, tight and funky, confident and dynamic.
Comparisons to Paul Simon’s Graceland would not be unfounded; Simon opened a lot of the West’s eyes to the music of Africa and did so with a blindingly good album. Well, this album is blindingly good as well.
The only negative I can say is that, at only 6 tracks, it is tragically short; however, Celestin has a wonderful future and I look forward to hearing more.