Occidental Brothers

The Occidental Brothers’ blend of high-energy soukous, rootsy Ghananian Highlife and African Jazz conjures sounds of the golden age of the African guitar band and has made them favorites of music critics, but their sound has seduced an audience as diverse as the members of this multi-ethnic band. Founded in Chicago by American-born musicians, the group has included former members of Ghanaian superstars the Western Diamonds, Congolese legend Samba Mapangala, Zambian roots musician Mathew Tembo, and TPOK Jazz’s Jonal Buya Lutete.

The group is led by guitarist Nathaniel Braddock, a faculty member at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and a veteran of Chicago’s indie rock scene, and was cofounded with jazz phenomenon Greg Ward on alto. Joshua Ramos joins on bass and Makaya McCraven on drums who along with Ward are among the most in-demand musicians in the New York and Chicago jazz scenes. Braddock’s former student Antonio Carella joins on second guitar and the new sound is filled with the bubbling interplay of the soukous sound.

Their last cd, “Odo Sanbra”, was much praised—making even Robert Christgau’s Dean’s List 2009 and earning praise as the best African band in North America. Their forthcoming cd, “Hunters”, takes its name from Matthew Tembo’s lyric for the song “Ashabinda”. The cd features both Tembo and Samba Mapangala on lead vocals, though the group’s 2012 performances had the young Zambian taking all lead vocal duties. The cd is scheduled for release in 2013.

The Occidental Brothers energize festival stages, including Poland’s “Made In Chicago” Festival 2017,Pitchfork 2008, GlobalFest 2009, the Montreal and Vancouver Jazz Festivals 2009, Toronto Afrofest 2010, and the Chicago Jazz Fest 2011. Other performances include Chicago’s Millennium Park, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center.

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