Michael League is bringing his new band to Musicology Barcaffe Sessions on July 26th.
The founder of the band Snarky Puppy, Michael League, has launched a world music and jazz super band – Bokante. On July 26th they will close the second series of concerts Musicology Barcaffè Sessions, at the Bitefartcafe Summer Stage club at Kalemegdan fortress, Belgrade. You can find tickets for this concert through Eventim and Ddtickets websites, online as well as in 300 selling points in Serbia.
Snarky Puppy, a planetary known jazz band and winner of the Grammy Awards, has produced many high-quality innovative projects. One of them is the Bokante. The idea for the band was born when Snarky Puppy’s leader heard the magic voice of Malika Tirolien during his tour in Montreal. A chance exchange between the two kindred spirits led to League writing some music and melodies specifically for her which he sent to Tirolien with lyrical concepts attached. Tirolien then wrote lyrics and melodies, demoing and ping-ponging the new content back to Michael who was on the road with other bands until they had created an album’s worth of songs.
Malika: As the singer of the band, I provide the lyrics in Creole and French, melodies and sometimes music with rhythms from Guadeloupe.
Tirolien’s words draw nuanced pictures of the struggles we face in our world today- racism, the refugee crisis, a dying planet, apathy towards human suffering- and offer words of thankfulness for those things which unify us, as well as hope for the future of our race.
League kept tinkering with his little experiment by trading his bass in for a baritone guitar and set out to build a band from scratch. The process of formation was all but conventional. Many of the musicians had never even met until the first day of recording.
Michael: The sound was in my head for a while (as evidenced by the dozens of demos in the voice memo section of my phone), so it really came down to picking the right people for the band. Each person has their own personality, but I felt from the very beginning that the combination would be something special. Some of the musicians knew each other, but many did not until the first day of recording, so that was funny. “Hey, man, nice to meet you. Okay, let’s track this first song.”
By the end of the week-long session in upstate New York’s legendary Dreamland Studios, the band felt abnormally cohesive.
“Unity was paramount in the formation of this group,” observed League. “Though the ensemble is multilingual, multicultural, and multi-generational, we all feel connected as musicians and people. And in combining our different accents I feel that there is a strangely common and poignant sound, one that can reach and relate to listeners around the world.
Working on the sound for some time on his own, League assures us it all came down to finding the right people. “Each person has their own personality. But I felt from the very beginning that the combination would be something special,” he says. “While it’s already been so much easier than the ten year build up that Snarky Puppy had before being recognized, the process of starting an independent original music ensemble from scratch is never easy.”
But with a simple mission in mind for Bokanté, League says the primary focus is simple – to make good music. Coming to Belgrade and Balkans for the first time, Michael couldn’t help sharing his excitement:
I’ve always been fascinated by Balkan brass and choir music. The grooves, rhythms, and melodies are so unique. I don’t know much about folkloric instruments from Serbia, but I’m excited about finding out!
Dragana Kostica is the Belgrade-based editor in chief and founder of Still in Belgrade art, culture and club scene magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Policy and Management in Arts (MA of Arts) and a Bachelor degree in Archaeology.