Occidental Brothers Dance Band International

Odo Sanbra

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With a mix of members from America and Ghana, the Occidental Brothers Dance Band work hard to keep alight the flame of the older styles of high life music -- and often do it very well, as they demonstrate on the first couple of tracks of this CD. But there's a twist to it, of course -- several twists, in fact. The first, and biggest, is the inclusion of alto sax in the lineup, which brings a slightly jazzy edge to the proceedings. Then there's violin on a couple of tracks, courtesy of the excellent Andrew Bird, who is particularly outstanding on "Mafiwo." "Masanga" blends some high life with hip-hop, as Yao Osofui raps on the cut, although it's far from hardcore. In some ways, the band's at its best when guitarist Nathaniel Braddock moves to acoustic, and the vibe becomes lazier, and more influenced by palm wine music, as they mine a groove that works splendidly. The definite odd man out is a cover of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." The intent is to shift it toward high life, but the overall effect, quite disturbingly, is to end up making it sound as if Haircut 100 had done the song; unusual, and strange. Overall, this is pleasant, without every really soaring (the very dry production doesn't help, either). But it'll be interesting to see where they take this hybrid.

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