Last week we spoke with Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe about
the band, their musical inspirations, and their upcoming show at the Fly Me to
the Moon Saloon this Saturday night, March 30th! Toubab Krewe has
been touring throughout the world since 2005, playing music in a blend of
global styles they describe as a “sonic Pangaea.”
T.com: We’re really excited to have you guys play at the
saloon can’t wait to have you in Telluride! I just wanted to ask you a couple
questions before we see you play. Tell me about your band name id love to hear
the story about how that came to be.
LQ: You know what, Toubab Krewe… we’ve spent a lot of time
in West Africa over the years, started traveling there as college students in
1999. I went for the first time to Guinea. And then a few of us, a couple years
after graduation went to the Ivory Coast right after graduation, studying
Throughout West Africa, Toubab or Toubabou
is a way to describe foreigners, people not born of continental African
descent. We got used to hearing it…even well before we started the band, we
would refer to ourselves as the Toubab crew, this group of friends that would
go back and forth to West Africa and had this real passion for the music.
It was funny, when we started the
band we were trying to come up with a band name and it was almost, well, we
were the Toubab Krewe. We chose the New Orleans spelling of “krewe” as a nod to
New Orleans as a place where different musical types and genres from around the
world and people from around the world came together and from that, indigenous
American musical styles were born.
I think it really speaks to our
music; it’s really this coming together of different musical styles from a lot
of different places. When we started the band it was really specific West
African music coming together with rock and some North Carolina styles… and it
was kind of appropriate to what we were doing musically. The Toubabou part was
us really claiming and owning who we are as Americans but at the same time
defining ourselves by what we are not… what we were doing was somewhere between
T.com: I know you guys are from Asheville. From my own
experience with your shows, I can hear the Americana influence and obviously
the heavy West African sounds. Just curious, what are your greatest musical
influences - personally, and as the band as a whole?
LQ: Really everyone in the group grew up in families that
loved music. I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock, and soul music, so
you know, everything from Led Zeppelin to all the Motown stuff, to Robert Johnson
and Aretha, Marvin Gaye, Allman Brothers... as a young teenager I got really
heavy into hip hop. Kind of in the middle of the golden era of New York hip hop,
so Biggie, Naz, Jay, all kinds of artists from around that time. And I think as
a group, especially for a few of our members, growing up in western North
Carolina they grew up around a lot of Appalachian tradition and traditional
music, string and old time music, and that’s really become part of our sound
over the past few years. It really continues. It’s been a real process of discovery
as we’ve been a band, starting in the West African tradition, and it’s been a
process of continuing to discover music from New Orleans, East Africa,
Ethiopian music, Indian music, South American music and styles from Peru and
the Andes region and Mexican music. Its kind of an ongoing, never-ending
process of discovering and being inspired by music which kind of finds its way
into what we do.
T.com: What do you think inspires you guys, having grown up
in the US, to explore so deeply into other cultures? I think it’s a really
unique feature of your music is the exploratory sound. Not a lot of bands are
doing what you do, especially ones on the festival circuits and the bands we
see a lot out here in Colorado.
LQ: It’s definitely like a case of kindred spirits… in terms
of the guys [in the band], we came together over a love of music and an
openness and curiosity in general. Also I think, musicians have somewhat been
ahead of the curve or ahead of mainstream culture in terms of making
connections across borders and finding ways that we’re more similar than we are
different. Music is such an ethereal thing; music is different in terms of the
other arts. It exists in this ethereal space. It can’t be seen, it can be heard
and digested in a way, but it’s much more fluid than that. I think because of
that, music has always brought people together across cultural lines. There’s a
lot of common ground in music… in the ways musicians express themselves in ways
that are very similar. We’re all kind of attracted to that. We’ve always been
interested in discovery and music and West Africa just grabbed a hold of us….
Now we’ve just been doing it for so long it feels natural.
T.com: How is playing a small, intimate venue like the moon,
how does that differ from your festival shows? Or the festivals you’ve played
in West Africa?
LQ: It’s interesting. From when we first got together, we’ve
always said 10 or 10,000… we’re bringing the same vibe. It’s almost kind of a
goal to play the same way, to feel the same way, the same connections with each
other as musicians and with the crowd in front of 10 or 15,000. To not to over
reach or over play… in front of 10, to try to project the same kind of energy
you would in front of 15,000: trying to bring the same energy to the experience…
I think you still have to bridge that gap. You still have to bring the audience
in and create this communal experience.
Maybe it’s from all our time spent
in West Africa and our affinity for traditional music, but our experience
playing music is as much a shared experience with the audience as it is a
performance… we’re more about the shared experience where the energy from the
audience informs what’s happening.
We can’t wait to hear Toubab Krewe play the Fly Me To The
Moon Saloon on Saturday night! Proceeds from every ticket go toward building a
music school in Mali, one of the band’s most important projects. Here’s a link to learn more about this program.
Additionally, you can vote for Toubab Krewe in a competition
through Brita water filters for the group to receive reusable water bottles,
carbon offset credits, and a retrofit of their tour bus for biodiesel. Vote for
Toubab Krewe at this link and help the band pursue sustainable touring
practices and eliminate disposable water bottles from their tour!