Toubab Krewe is a band that defies easy categorization. But that’s fine, we’ll just file their new album, Stylo, under “sounds that make us want to hit the beach.”
After a decade-long hiatus, the Asheville five-piece band has returned with their third album, a collection of tracks filled with beachy vibes and relentless rhythms.
“Ten years has gone by since we recorded our last album,” said Drew Heller, who plays guitar, piano, and fiddle in the band. “In that time we’ve had a lot of room for experimentation and refinement. This new album is a snapshot of where we have found ourselves in 2018.”
It just so happens that where they’ve found themselves is a place of depth and harmony. Stylo’s tracks are bounteous and full: there’s nothing sparse or minimalist here, every track is a rich tapestry of interconnected sounds. That’s one of the reasons why describing Stylo is such a difficult task.
The band is known for capturing listeners with their unique melding of eclectic styles and genres, like Appalachian, Afropop, folk, surf rock, even the occasional border-cross into psychedelic territory.
But as with all the band’s music, the most noteworthy thing about Stylo as an album is the uniqueness of the instrumentation.
Toubab Krewe have spent time, individually and together, in places like Guinea, Mali, and the Ivory Coast, absorbing the local cultures and mastering traditional instruments. The Kora and the Kamelngoni – both West African string instruments – lend Stylo a beautiful, cross-cultural sound.
Track after track the album is ushered along by energetic percussion that’s born from Congas and Djembe drums.
None of this is a replication of traditional styles, but rather a reimagining; a way of drawing inspiration from another culture and respectfully merging it into their own.
The album is made up almost exclusively of instrumental tracks, except for the lovely “Miriama” which introduces rare vocals.
Close your eyes as you listen and you can picture palm trees swaying and birds circling overhead.
A definite stand-out track from the album is its first single, ‘That Damn Squash’, a lively mashup of surf guitars and thrumming African drums.
“Stylo has tropical vibes all day and night,” said Heller, “but ‘That Damn Squash’ is recommended if the waves are particularly big.”
By the way, if you’re wondering about the unusual title of the track, perhaps it has something to do with the album’s launch project on Pledge Music. Purchase the album or other merchandise and a portion of all proceeds will go towards Seed Programs International (SPI), a charity program that sends seed packages to impoverished communities (including seeds for, you guessed it, summer squash).
Rarely does giving yourself the gift of music give someone else the gift of a better life, so it’s a worthy cause indeed. Beyond serving a charitable purpose, Drew Heller says the band wants to simply make people dance: “We hope people feel transported by the sound to dancing —imagined or real.”
Stylo is available by visiting Pledge Music. For more cool beach albums, tune in to the 30A Radio live now!
TANIA BRAUKAMPER is an Australian-born writer and photographer currently living in Portugal. She’s obsessed with photographing sunsets and going for long coastal hikes, and always does her best to schedule her travel plans into an endless summer.