Interview February 16, 2017
Listen: Super Yamba Band's "N'diarabi" With Ismael Kouyate
Super Yamba Band is a Brooklyn-based, Afrobeat-inflected funk outfit that just re-released their song “N'diarabi” on vinyl. The track, which you can hear right here, features Ismael Kouyate, a Guinea-born singer and choreographer, who famously appeared on Beyoncé's track “Grown Woman,” and has toured with the musical Fela!. Far be it from Afropop to tell you how to react to a track, but it is, objectively speaking, a banger. Afropop's Ben Richmond called up Daniel Yount, Super Yamba Band's drummer, to ask how the collaboration came together, and what else the Super Yamba Band has planned for this year. Ben Richmond: So how did you meet Ismael Kouyate? Daniel Yount: We met Ismael at a gig in Harlem with our friend Abou Dembele—who's a percussionist and djembe player who's been kind of a fill-in percussionist for us for a long time. He was playing with us at Silvana in Harlem and invited Ismael to come check out the band and hang out. And then of course Ismael ends up getting on stage and rocking out with us. Which, I had no idea that Ismael was coming. I had heard of him obviously, so that was fun. He was just improvising a song? Or dancing? He jumped up and sang on a tune we played. I think we played a cover of a Super Djata Band song? He jumped on that one and improvised. I don't think it seemed like improvising to the audience. That ended up being the person that Abou had in mind and we talked after that and we knew we were going to record more stuff, so we wrote that song with him in mind to sing. And that was cool. It was kind of the first song we produced for a vocalist. Was he involved in composition at all? We arranged the song and wrote the song completely before he came in, but we had set out places where we thought he could sing a verse and that definitely happens on the track. But then he also just sang other amazing stuff over the track so it ended up being vocals all the way through it. That wasn't exactly what I thought was going to happen, but it was amazing. He definitely added vocals in places where we weren't expecting and also did his thing over the whole thing. He had an idea for everything he heard. He was into it and we were like, “Well, if he's having fun, let's let him go...” He's also a dancer, of course. You have any plans to get a whole show going there? It would be incredible with dancers. Right now we have a New Year's resolution to start bringing out bigger bands to certain shows, so you know for shows where there's a large enough stage or audience for it, we've been experimenting for more horns or extra members or also working with another singer recently. That's where our heads at, and maybe dancers could be incorporated eventually as well. Now you're just one degree removed from Beyoncé, since Kouyate appeared on “Grown Woman.” So you've got that draw, and now it's just a matter of time. What else do you have in common with Beyoncé? Oh, all sorts of things—we know Laolu! But yeah, dancers would be amazing. We played a show at C'mon Everybody the other night, and I think at least it was a great success for us because we kind of made a New Year's resolution to have a bigger live sound and a month into the year, we went to that and worked up a bunch of songs with another singer from Mali, so yeah, it's been nice to make some of these things happen. Is this the first time you have something out on vinyl? Yes, it was our first physical release. We got it together for our first tour this past summer and it was an effort to get some physical merch ready for that. That's when we put out the 45. We played a couple of music festivals and went to Atlanta and played our way back up. Who do you find yourself on bills with? Jazz bands? Who are your peers? It's interesting because playing in New York, there's so many niche markets so we often for the most part play with bands that are right up our alley. When we went on the road, it was interesting because we got paired up with all sorts of bands. We played a festival in Atlanta, and the headliners were Rubblebucket, also from Brooklyn, and The Motet. That was a mix of indie pop and also funk, I guess. And then we were bringing the Afrobeat. We also played some club shows. One of the cooler bands was this side project in Richmond of a bunch of the guys from Butcher Brown. They're sort of an up-and-coming jazz group that's more like New Age jazz stuff. That's really interesting. And so, you know, all sorts of stuff. It was fun to test the music out on the road in that way. Any more tours coming up? We'd like to. Since then we've done more short runs, so if we get booked for something that's outside of town that seems like a good opportunity or makes sense financially, maybe we'll book a few shows around it, but that usually ends up being, more of three or four days out. We've got some stuff coming up that's like that, and then we're hoping that in the summer we can maybe do another more extended tour. It kind of depends on what we can pull off. You've been releasing single by single--any plans for a full-length? Yeah, we've put out most of the singles and we're actually going back into the studio in March to work on the full-length. Then we'll want to get on the road to support that, but it always takes some time to produce. You have any shows coming up? We do! We're playing at Brooklyn Bazaar on March 8, and that's one of the “LPR Presents” shows. The lineup is amazing. I'm looking forward to it. We're playing with People's Chance and IGBO. That'll be a great show for sure. We're going to bring out our vocalist for that one as well, and a bigger band—more horns and stuff.