Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dub Inc brings Franco-African reggae to NYC

From Saint-Etienne, France, Dub Inc is a hot reggae combo that incorporates North African Berber (Amazight) music and rock into its punchy, crowd-pleasing mix.  On their second visit to New York, the band pulled a big crowd to Drom in the East Village, and gave them exactly what they were looking for--a powerhouse barrage of skanking stage action.

Singers Aurelien Komlan Zohou (from France and Benin) and Hakim "Bouchkour" Meridja (from Algeria) are a tag-team dynamo on stage.  They work like two sides of the same coin, flipping vocals, switching places, and practically completing each others lines.  Zohou has a gravelly dancehall-style vocal, where Meridja can channel the ornamented cry of North African song.  It's a winning combination wherein the contrast between their styles lends power to the unity of their joint performance.  You literally can't take your eyes off them.

The band is tight and limber as well, shifting grooves mid-song, and covering every variety of reggae imaginable along the way, from slow skank to jump-up dancehall.  On one song the singers did in fact get the crowd jumping, and seem delighted by the spectacle.  Guitarist Jeremie Gregeois stepped forth for a flashy rock solo at one point, to the fascination of the two singers.  And Meridja picked up a frame drum and unleashes a gorgeous stream of vocal melisma on the one strongly North African number in the set.  But for the most part, this was a reggae show, and an excellent one.  This is exactly the sort of band needed to put the energy and performance chops into a genre that has tended to be lost in Marley nostalgia and dub doldrums.  Don't let the "dub" name fool you.  These guys are far more than knob-twisters.  They're a first rate club band with a fresh global vibe.

Dub Inc's new CD Hors Controle (Diversite) is also highly recommended.

Banning Eyre

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