Janka Nabay stood apart from the Treefort Music Fest lineup before he even set foot on the stage at Neurolux March 22. The four-day festival is stocked up on indie-rock, but Nabay, a Sierra Leone-born artist known as the king of bubu music, was the only afropop act on the roster.
Whether or not his standout nature drew a packed house to see him, or whether the audience was just queueing up in advance for Delicate Steve didn't matter. The reaction was the same: elation.
Nabay and his band The Bubu Gang performed an energetic set of bubu music, a style based on droning rhythms and dub instrumental blasts. It sounds a bit like psychedelic calypso.
"When Americans think about Sierra Leone, they think about blood diamonds," Nabay said between songs. "But we also have music."
Based off the chatter on the dance floor, the message stuck.
After Nabay's set, the New Jersey-based Delicate Steve took the stage and shredded through a set of instrumental pop guitar riffs over island-inspired, shaker-heavy beats.
How did the crowd like it?
"Man, you guys are even louder than we are," the band responded after a burst of applause.