Don't expect to see any musicians with congenitally deficient skin
pigmentation in the band Albino! This Berkeley-based, 14-piece all-star ensemble honors
the fiery legacy of Afrobeat inventor Fela Kuti by melding tightly-crafted arrangements
and nuances of jazz harmony with propulsive, high energy grooves. For the innocent
bystander, any visit to an albino! show inevitably becomes an all out booty-maneuvering
experience. Formed in 2003, the members of Albino! hail from such diverse acts as
Spearhead, CK Ladzekpo, and Hamsa Lila, among others. Since this group's inception,
world-beat and jamband lovers alike have latched-on to the primary ingredient behind this
band's truly broad appeal: Albino simply brings the house down every opportunity it gets!
Kokou Soglo Katamani
Among the 14 musicians comprising Albino's powerful line-up, is singer/percussionist Kokou
Soglo Katamani of Ghana and Togo, West Africa. A professional drummer in the Ewe
tradition, over the past 30 years, Kokou has studied, performed, and taught traditional
and modern African music, taking him throughout Nigeria, the capital city, Lagos, and Fela
Kuti's Kalakuta Republic. Kokou is also a teacher and works and performs with master
drummer, CK Ladzekpo, in the West African Music and Dance Ensemble.
On drums is Michael Pinkham, whose slinky yet driving rhythms have been a key force behind
such acts as Diego's Umbrella, Monkey Knife Fight and Boca Do Rio. A student of rhythm,
Pinkham has studied tabla at the Ali Akbar College under Tim Witter and Swapan Chaudhuri
andİWest African drumming with Ghanaian master drummer Kwaku Daddy.İHe has studied,
performed and toured internationally with Samba do Coracao, a traditional sambaİbatucada
and dance company. A moody sonofabitch who is always flossing, Pinkham has taken to heart
the swinging drumming style of Tony Allen.
Keyboardist "Count" Bob Crawford, who is perhaps best known for a recent stint
with Michael Franti's politically conscious groove-rap band, Spearhead, adds funk-flair to
the rock solid grooves that propel Albino's blistering jams. Percussionist Trevino Leon of
Cuba, has travelled extensively as a professional drummer in the Ewe tradition for the
past 27 years. He also specializes in Afro-Cuban drumming & music, and performs with
the West African Music and Dance Ensemble.
Trevino is fluent in Efik, a Nigerian dialect, and Lucumi, a Cuban form of Nigerian. He
teaches Ghanaian, Benin, Nigerian and Cuban African drum theory, history and dance
workshops around the San Francisco Bay Area. Dancer/percussionist Kim Agnew mixes 23 years
of dance and performance experience with West African , Cuban folklore and Salsa styles to
bring a unique blend of percussion and motion to the group's tireless groove.
Before Albino, Kim was dancer and percussionist for West African hip hop funkateers, the
Slaptones. She currently performs with several folklore companies and teaches a
multi-cultural dance and music outreach program for inner city youth with the San
Francisco Ballet. She gives thanks for all her master teachers who share their history and
Gameli K. Ladzekpo
Percussionist Gameli K. Ladzekpo, nephew of master drummer CK Ladzekpo, brings his
experience in Ewe music to the afrobeat sound of Albino! as well as the West African Music
and Dance Ensemble. Originally hailing from Ghana, Gemeli is now a producer for
Oakland-based label, Be About It Productions, where he is also a beat creator for numerous
bay area hip-hop artists. Tenor guitarist Cal Reichenbach holds down the guitar chair in
the San Francisco-based funk/jazz groups Starvin Like Marvin, and Guru Garage, and is also
making a name for himself as a budding TV tune-smith, having recently had some of his work
broadcast on the Cartoon Network. Also adding to the polyrhythmic interplay of the Albino!
rhythm section is Jacob Groopman on rhythm guitar. Trained as a jazz guitarist, Jacob has
been known to play anything from funk to jazz and even bluegrass and acoustic music.
Having toured the states and Europe in a world-class jug band, he's still the youngest
member of the band, at 22.
On bass is Kevin "Bam Bam" Blair, a 24 year-old groove-wunderkind &
disciple of the low-end wizardry of bass titans Jaco Pastorius, & Paul Jackson of the
Headhunters. Acquiring knowledge of the musical customs of the Khoisan tribe, and the
Xhosa tribe (Nelson Mandela's tribal group) of South Africa, Blair has spent time studying
and performing in Cape Town, and other townships within Western Cape region of that
But any summary description of Albino's line-up cannot be made
without mentioning the band's five-piece horn section. These five musicians collectively
share the duty of articulating the band's infectious pulse with the punchy horn lines that
are as endemic to the essence of Afrobeat music as is the music's propensity to lead its
listeners, body and mind, into a kind of groove-fed state of ecstatic oblivion. On tenor
sax and flute is Nathan Endsley, who leads Albino's 5-piece horn section and is an Albino!
co-founder. Endsley who was a one-time contributing member of the popular
pan-indigenous-culture influenced Trance/World-Beat ensemble Hamsa Lila, brings his
considerable talents to the group as writer & arranger on various Albino!
compositions. On trombone is Seattle jazz disciple "T-Bone" Charlie Wilson, a
talented record producer and arranger in his own right, whose musical journeys have taken
him as far as New York and Western Europe, through Jazz, Rock and Hip-Hop to Heavy Heavy
Afrobeat. On trumpet is Joe Balestreri, a veteran who has worked with such artists as
Brown Baggin' among many others. Dual baritone saxophones are manned by Michael Bello and
Jonathan "Zoltar" Hoops, leader of the famed West Coast Rhythm Section, and
featured soloist for Burning Man sensation, The Mutaytor.
By bringing to the fore their positive energies, musical intuition, and a committed
group-ingenuity to remain true to the Afrobeat tradition while not being confined by it,
the seasoned musicians that constitute the band's line-up (including those not mentioned)
get the music rolling! Do yourself a favor: go see Albino!