Award winning Sierra Leonean singer-songwriter, guitarist Bai Kamara Jr & The Voodoo Sniffers announce the release of their new album Traveling Medicine Man on Friday 3 March.
The 13-track album is delivered via German label Moosicus/MIG Music and Zig Zag World on all platforms. The album opens with dance track ‘Shake It’, a sound that brings back a funky swerve in a typical Voodoo Sniffers style. A systematic and salacious request to show what makes the woman tick. With the guitar tapping, it is a catchy and absolute dance tune. This music video is coming out a few days after ‘Good Good Man‘, another track off the body of work.
Traveling Medicine Man is an album filled with rich sounds that feed the soul. It touches upon universal themes of love and acceptance, the travails of the heart and the ups and downs human relationships go through. Finding the balance between good and bad, both at a personal level and in terms of how we experience society is also a big fascination.
Bai Kamara Jr & The Voodoo Sniffers are a Belgian based soul/blues funk, Jazz band made up of Julien Tassin – electric guitar, Tom Beardslee – electric guitar, Désiré Somé – bass guitar, Boris Tchango – drums and percussion. Bai kamara jr. delivers lead vocals and acoustic guitar.
Bai Kamara Jr tunes into his African roots through self-reflection on politics, traveling and migration, exploring different angles of reality and adding an echo of Afrobeat/Highlife in some of the tracks.
The album touches the listener with its lyrics and sweet rhythms, pulling one into the world Bai Kamara Jr & The Voodoo Sniffers want the listener to taste.
Band leader, Bai Kamara Jr, bares his mind in this interview with eyesofalagosboy.com
Since your nomination at the US Blues Blast Music Awards, how has the journey been?
Since my nomination at the blues Blast Music Awards my musical journey has been great so far, the nomination gave my work recognition not only in the U.S but also in Europe and beyond for the simple reason that that everyone in the music industry looks at what’s happening in the U.S.
The nomination also brought me a bit of added pressure in some way, in the sense that the follow up to Salone had to be different, but equally as good or even better. Due to the Covid 19 crisis, The Voodoo Sniffers and I had enough time to experiment and develop the sound for Traveling Medicine Man. The other advantage we had was that the songs were already written and composed before early 2020. All we had to do was to explore new sounds and arrange the songs.
I am a true believer in the phrase “you are as good as the next thing you do or produce.”
Who is Traveling Medicine Man addressing?
Traveling Medicine Man is targeted towards the youth and our political leaders. I am concerned our brilliant youths are fleeing the African continent not only because of wars but out of lack of opportunities. Many end up losing their lives at sea or find themselves in detention centers in some failed North African states, where they are treated as criminals and at worse like animals.
This exodus has been triggered by bad governance. Having said that, I also want to warn the youths that the reception they will get on the shores of Europe won’t always be a warm one. But all is not lost. I’m hopeful this generation is better informed than those before them. They have the eyes and ears of the world on their smart phone. Leaders who violently try to hold on to power against the will of citizens will no longer be tolerated. Their crimes against humanity are documented and in the end they will be held accountable. The youths are the future and they hold the balance of power.
How do you think West Africa perceives your style of music?
To be honest, I really don’t know exactly how West Africans perceive my music but I have a feeling that since the release of Salone there has been more interest in my style of music. My intuition tells me that using and experimenting with traditional rhythms and melodies from various parts of West Africa has helped to introduce my music to the younger generation. Because I don’t use electronic instruments on my recordings my music evokes memories of the dance bands of the seventies. I have tried to blend the blues with afrobeat and desert blues with English lyrics, this might have captured their imagination. It’s just a presumption.
One of the tracks, “If You Go” rings highlife. What were you up to with that?
That’s a good question, it goes back to the days when I was a boy in Sierra Leone when the music from Ghana used to be popular. One of the most famous bands back then was Osibisa. I still remember some of their lyrics, they were simple but they always included a parable, one such song was called ‘Fire’. Subconsciously I must have tapped into that sphere while writing that song; that’s the only plausible explanation I can give.
Bai Kamara Jr and The Voodoo Sniffers play all around Europe quite frequently. Any plans on touring the African continent?
There are no immediate plans as yet to tour Africa but my management and I have been thinking about it. As you know, two other members of The Voodoo Sniffers come from West Africa. Boris Tchango, our drummer is Togolese and our bass player Désiré Somé hails from Burkina Faso. It’s one of our biggest wishes to tour the African continent, especially West Africa. Hopefully 2025 will take us to the shores of West Africa. It’s on my bucket list.
What would you say is the magic to the success of your band?
I think the success of my band is based on respect, openness, honesty and collaboration and above all we consider the band as our family – we all serve the music instead of our egos.
My relationship with my management is based on those same principles, we are all stake holders in our little enterprise and we are all focused on the same vision.
How many albums or EPs did you release earlier?
I have recorded six albums, Traveling Medicine Man will be my seventh album. Before my solo career I recorded one album and two EPs with my first band Odex Protocol. During my solo career I also had side projects, Aramak Iab a blues band and 15:15 I a rock band, I recorded an album with each of these projects.
Do you see an Afrobeat(s) fusion with your blues style?
Absolutely, I do see a fusion with Afrobeat and my blues style, it is natural to me, Afrobeat was part of my soundtrack when I was growing up in West Africa. The first single we released from Traveling Medicine Man was ‘Lover Oh Lover’ a fusion of afrobeat, blues and gospel.
On the record it’s about three minutes and a half long but live we stretch it to about 10 to fifteen minutes. It’s quite a fun track to perform, the audience gets into it from the first beat and they stay with us till the end.
As we don’t have a saxophone player in the band, on this song the bass player is featured.
Which Afrobeat artists would you like to work with?
Without a doubt I’d love to collaborate with Femi Kuti. He is a great instrumentalist and he is one of the custodians of his father’s legacy, the great Fela Kuti.