Chicago’s Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l plays classic Central and West African dance music—specializing in Highlife, Rumba, Dry Guitar, and other delights from the great continent. The multi-racial band mixes their backgrounds in traditional African music, jazz, and underground rock to bring these classic sounds to life. The group has been winning over listening and dancing audiences alike, usually getting those crossed-armed listeners dancing, too! Word of the group’s electrifying live shows is spreading as they play sold-out shows with Afropop legend Oliver Mtukudzi and art-pop superstar Andrew Bird.
The band began by covering the songs of Congolese greats Mwenda Jean Bosco, Franco, and Bantous de la Capitale, and their brand-new cd features many of these tunes. Now the group is writing original songs that incorporate their mastery of the style with the singing of Ghanaian Kofi Cromwell. Kofi sings in a haunting mixture of English and his mother tongue, Twi. Thrill Jockey will be distributing the cd and offering it online.
Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock leads the group. Braddock teaches African guitar at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and is a veteran of Chicago’s jazz and independent rock scene, playing with Ancient Greeks (Flameshovel) and the Zincs (Thrill Jockey). Braddock is joined by Greg Ward on alto saxophone. Ward is a rising star of Chicago’s jazz scene, playing with Hamid Drake, Ernest Dawkins, Rebel Souls, and the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble. Handling trumpet and vocal duties is Kofi Cromwell of the much-celebrated Western Diamonds (voted Ghana’s best highlife band three years in a row). Kofi’s brother and fellow Diamond Kudi Cromwell adds trombone. Kyle Hernandez plays upright bass. Doug Brush joins on baliphone, and hand drums. Brush plays with Las Guitarras Españas and many other groups. Also on percussion are George Lawler and Greg Lundberg.
The OBDBI has performed at Chicago’s 2006 World Music Festival, the 2005 and 2006 Folk & Roots Festivals, the 2005 and 2006 Bucktown Arts Festival, the HotHouse, Rodan, the Logan Square Auditorium, and the Chicago Cultural Center. Their monthly gigs at Chicago’s Charleston have become legendary dance parties. Chicago Public Radio recently showcased the band in studio working out a cover tune of the New Order tune “Bizarre Love Triangle” which has since become an internet hit! The band has no official release of this tune yet, but visit our website to check it out!