Savana Funk – Tindouf: Album Review

Savana Funk return with a brand new album choc full of powerful and psychedelic grooves and a graduation from trio to quartet.

Released: 18th June 2021

Label: Garrincha GoGo

Format: CD / Vinyl (Red or White) / Digital

Savana Funk are a relatively new proposition, but it feels like they have been around for years such is the tightness of their sound. Aldo Betto (guitar), Blake C.S. Franchetto (bass) and Youssef Ait Bouazza (drums) (respectively from Italy, England and Morocco) first met in spring 2015, in Bologna, Italy. It became immediately apparent to them that they shared a special bond on an emotional and musical level. A mixture of African music, funk, blues, psychedelic rock and jazz influences runs throughout their original repertoire. In 2018 they officially adopted the name Savana Funk.

Tindouf is the new album from this stellar set of musicians. It is a visionary album full of powerful and psychedelic grooves recorded live on analog tape. Known for their explosive live sound they have managed to fully capture the gutsy experience and raw energy of their show with a vintage esthetic and a deep interplay cultivated with over a thousand concerts and countless hours playing together. The original trio has now expanded to a quartet adding Nicola Peruch on keyboards. Nicola has worked with the band since their first album and has finally become an official member being involved in all the phases of this release, from composing to recording.

According to the band, most of the tunes sprung up during soundchecks or post-concert jams when everybody had already left, a subdued, low-lit backdrop attended only by a solitary barman, while others started by an initial musical idea brought in by one of the band members and augmented collectively. The embryos of the material can be traced back to early 2019 and were fully developed in the autumn of that same year when the band retreated to Borgo Rosso, a farmhouse near Tredozio (in the hills located between Bologna and Florence). Here they found the right mood and inspiration thanks to the warm autumn colors and the silent, rural atmosphere and a beneficial sun.A week later the body of work was completed with a bunch of new tunes composed during the stay.

Tindouf is a city in Algeria that hosts a major refugee camp in the Hammada plain aka the “Devil’s Garden”, so-called due to its inhospitable climate, extreme heat, and sandstorms. The title track of album is a wonderful sprawling feast of rhythm, guitar and varied tempo. Opening with ambient street sounds of the east, the whole piece grows in aura through dark synths and percussion, before it coalesces into something completely psychedelic. Pulsing bass and hypnotic hand claps accompany the eastern tinged melody with Elena Majoni providing a guest slot on violin. Tindouf is the longest track on the album, and a true centerpiece song.

Either side of the mammoth title track, there is more amazement to be found. Fuga da Gorée has a tight bassline that Larry Graham would be proud of. As Fuga da Gorée grows there is a real moment of joy when the song breaks down around the three minute mark. Any funk fan worth their salt would struggle to stand still to this groove. The track ends with heavy breathing…a testament to the live nature of the recording and the furore that Savana Funk pack into their music.

Afromoon has a very lounge like vibe with the keys taking the centre stage. At times, it’s a song that could sit on Air’s Moon Safari album. Perhaps there is a tenuous link between titles and styles there? The song locks into the groove before having a distorted guitar solo adds extra layers of colour.

A more urgent bassline opens up Il Ghepardo before a Wild West style guitar line flies out of the song. Mystical keyboard licks and marching drums keep the excitement flowing. World-renowned trombonist Gianluca Petrella also makes a guest appearance at this juncture. Petrella is an acquaintance made by Savana Funk at the ‘Jova Beach Party’ where the band left its mark during their live performances which included jams with Italian singer/songwriter and rapper, Jovanotti, in front of tens of thousands of people.

Max Castlunger, a percussionist from South Tyrol, has already been a guest on the band’s first album. Here, he is present on nearly every track, contributing greatly to the album’s soundscape with clarity and precision. Keta Diva is a great example of Castlunger’s work. From the off, the percussion flies around the composition. The Invisible Man opens with a pensive guitar line before another pulsing bassline moves the song forward and Kontiki Blues closes the album in somewhat mournful fashion but depressing this is not. The joy in the music is rampant throughout.

Tindouf is a triumph of a record. It is socially aware in its outlook and is rich with history from a roster of members from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Without lyrics it might be hard to achieve this, but Savana Funk have a rare talent; making music that truly makes you feel.

Savana Funk: Website / Bandcamp / Facebook

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