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Toubab Krewe releases TK2 at The Brooklyn Bowl

By Nadia Schuessler and John Powell

The Brooklyn Bowl, whether due to the architecture or the decorations, has an old-time, 1920s smoke lounge feel. Just inside, the high ceilings give a lot of breathing room, with a restaurant in the back, the bowling alley to the left, the bar, and the stage in back, perpendicular to the bowling lanes, where the bowlers can turn around and see the music.

The design is purposeful, every aspect placing people in an ideal spot to see and hear the music, without the music interrupting what they’re doing. There is a lack of walls, and also low lights, picnic tables, and leather couches.

As we enter, we realize there is a lot to do, and though we came for the music, we could have stayed there all night and never have gotten bored. The venue succeeded in appealing to many sorts of people. Even if you came to bowl, or eat and drink, or hear the music, it’s all right there.

We approach the stage set up for the band, the drum kit, the hand percussions, the guitars lined up, mics, amps, cables, and behind it all crimson-colored curtains. It’s a huge stage in an intimate space, a real rock n’ roll setting.

Down the spiral staircase files Toubab Krewe. Bassist Dave Pransky arrives on stage, dressed in red jeans, button-up denim, and Nike Airs, his curly hair flowing. Justin Perkins sports one of his classic fedoras and cowboy boots. A white collared shirt with floral trim truly gives him a Southern flare. His sits down, center stage, and picks up his kamelnegoni. Teal Brown, sporting a striped button-up and grinning from ear to ear, sits behind his kit. Luke Quaranata’s energetic eyes gaze into the crowd as he readies his djembe. Drew Heller, clad in all black, picks up his stratocaster and tunes up.

There stands Toubab Krewe, the Asheville, North Carolina genre exploders, students of traditional West African music and jam band circuit touring act. This is their album release party for TK2, from Nat Geo Music.

Toubab Krewe ~ Angelica-Music

Toubab Krewe did not start off with a bang, but that seemed deliberate, gradually drawing people in with a slower take on “51’ Ladder”, normally a pick-me-up in the middle of a set. The song could be considered a hit for the group, and by slowing it down they were perhaps not interfering with the other activities offered by the Brooklyn Bowl, but was a sort of welcoming, a clever gathering of attention.

“Cluck Old Hen”, a Southern anthemic romp, is an Appalachian folk song. Justin stepped up to the mic and sang as the band took the very bluegrassy song and made it rock. On the chorus, they all sang along. It is the only song in their general set with vocals, but as Justin put it, “We’re gonna give you a taste of the South.”

They jumped into “Area Code”, but this time a slower and more felt out version than previous performances, proving that the build-up and drive of the song functions at either end of the spectrum. Four minutes in, Luke called with his djembe, changing the tempo and tone; the song takes off, and the show did as well. Toubab Krewe always manages to take the listener away, into their own reality, their unique, blended sound, and as the song reached its peak, the whole audience was picked up and taken away.

Now that we’re in their world, Toubab Krewe presented “Asheville to Abidjan”. While Dave and Drew took a break, Teal, Luke, and Justin played this all-percussion song, featuring Justin on dunun (or dun dun), a set of three booming upright drums. The song is from their first, self-titled release, and although this was TK2’s release party, we remembered the power of the first songs they gave us in 2005. Usually focused on the intricate parts of their songs, Luke unexpectedly spoke to the audience, instructing us to perform a double-clap at the end of a repeated phrase. The participation took a few rounds to get the hang of, but it was our ticket to the journey, so we clapped along.

The first set grew in intensity, like all of Toubab’s songs, rising and falling in volume, speed, and melody, but never faltering in energy. Set one ended with “NTB” off of TK2, one of the group’s more dynamic jams. The crowd had been dancing, entranced, and just as the sweat was pouring, Luke stepped up to say, “We’re going to come back for a second set,” and like a season finale of a dramatic show, we stood as if at the edge of a cliff, but we were willing to jump, and would with set two.

Drew did something unexpected for long-time Toubab fans. He sat at a keyboard and began the cabaret-esque piano plunk of “Mariama”, the opener of TK2, and proof of the group’s ever-expanding sound, as it is reminiscent of the Addams Family theme song. In the same vein, they leap into “Carnavalito”, a traditional South American song from the Andes Mountains. The song drove the crowd to dance. Toubab, very aware of the audience, let a reciprocal energy develop; dance and music became one expression.

We are totally on their journey now. Take us wherever you’re going, Toubab; we’re with you. Dave pulls out his wooden, square bass, and Drew his cigar-box guitar with the word “Africa” sprawled above the sound hole. Drew had been given a similar cigar-box guitar by a fan a few years ago, but this looked like a newer, tricked out version. They played “Sirens”, a dirty, Delta blues escapade that starts with Drew sliding up and down the fretless neck of his four-string instrument.

The finale was another strictly percussion song, “Petit Amadeus”, including all members of the band, and if we thought “A2A” was a powerhouse, this time the drums lifted us even higher. This is typically what they close their concerts with, but they kept going. Even when the audience thought they were done, there would be another two minutes of build up. Luke and Justin, upfront on djembes, seemed possessed. It was a fiery exit.

For an encore, “Too Many”, a Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash cover that no one has ever heard like Toubab plays it, a strange but nearly-perfect counter to the percussion song preceding it.

And bam! What was that? What just happened? Toubab Krewe, with their second release to tour behind, seems to have renewed passion for the audience, for exploring their own songs, for interweaving all worldly styles and making them completely Toubab. As we leave the venue we’re sure Toubab Krewe’s ever-growing fan base will have no boundaries. Like their music, Toubab embraces it all, taking the reins, leading us to a place we all can appreciate.


51’ Ladder
Area Code
Asheville to Abidjan
Gine Fare

Lamine’s Tune
Petit Amadeus

Too Many

Purchase TK2


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