Bamboula 2000, formed in 1994, certainly lives up to its name in presenting rhythmic music with its roots in the past and taking it to the present. There are a lot of modern sounds on Up from Congo Square—some funk, some neo-soul, a touch of smooth-style jazz—while it continues to look back to the African continent of its origins.

That core remains strong primarily due to the presence and dedication of Bamboula’s leader, percussionist Luther Gray. Gray was, of course, central in getting Congo Square recognized as a historic site. The area, now located in Armstrong Park, was unique in the United States as slaves and people of color were allowed to play their drums and dance there on Sundays. Their spirits live on in all of New Orleans music, a point of emphasis for Bamboula 2000.

When bassist Cheryl Woods is onboard as lead vocalist, as she is on the opener, “All We Got,” the musical vibe is of today. That’s also true of trumpeter/vocalist Jeremy Thomas, who helps in successfully bringing the old and new worlds together on “Kakilambe,” with the African tradition upheld by vocalist Jamilah Peters Muhammad.

With its unique mix of styles and instrumentation, Up from Congo Square stands as an album that could only be born of New Orleans.

New music spotlight: Bamboula 2000


Published on: August 9th, 2016

Bamboula 2000 performing at Congo Square in 2013 [Photo by Melanie Merz]

Bamboula 2000 performing at Congo Square in 2013 [Photo by Melanie Merz]
Bamboula 2000 performing at Congo Square in 2013 [Photo by Melanie Merz]

Bamboula 2000 "Up From Congo Square"

Bamboula 2000
Bamboula 2000 "Up From Congo Square"
Bamboula 2000 celebrates 22 years with a new CD and anniversary show at Cafe Istanbul

Bamboula 2000 integrates a modern soul sound with African, Caribbean, and jazz influences-- thus their latest album, Up From Congo Square, is quite appropriately titledBamboula 2000 pays tribute to their drumming and dancing ancestors in Congo Square's long and storied history as the birthplace of jazz and the New Orleans sound. Bamboula 2000 is unique in that they began with a specific mission-- to help people perceive the connections between themselves and the cultural traditions of the African diaspora. This mission is still being fulfilled 22 years after their launch.

Formed in 1994, Bamboula 2000 has won the Big Easy Award for Best World Music Group three times and been nominated eight times. The group is heavily invested in the community and reaches thousands of children annually through their "Imagination Tour" dance and drum workshops. Up From Congo Square was supported by the Threadhead Cultural Foundation, a local non-profit that works "to promote the tradition of preserving, promoting and disseminating the cultural heritage of New Orleans and the surrounding area of Louisiana."

Up From Congo Square is a moving tribute to and continuation of the music that came from the historic area now contained within Treme's Armstrong Park and all of the souls and influences that have passed through there over the centuries. The percussion heavy 'Our Ancestry' calls out spots throughout the Caribbean and world. Heavy African drum stylings can be heard on 'Kakilamba' and 'Drummer Man.' The group takes a lighter turn on the easy flowing 'La Place' and romantic 'Let It Happen.' The 10-track release closes with the most straight jazz song on the album, 'Elevate.'

On Sunday, August 14, they'll be celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the band with a show at Cafe Istanbul from 6-10p.

Up From Congo Square is available on CD and mp3 from the band's websiteLouisiana Music FactoryCDBaby,iTunes, and Amazon.

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Bamboula 2000 - "Wild Bamboulas"