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Fra Fra Sound: Kultiplex

Mark F. Turner By

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The world music community can be a smaller and more wonderful place.

“Fra Fra” means “hybrid” or “mysterious” when spoken in Suriname, the independent South American country formally known as Dutch Guyana. Both words accurately describe the entertaining and captivating band. With a global mindset and world class appeal, the seven piece group began when bassist Vincent Henar formed the group in 1980 in Amsterdam. The septet's members have origins in the Netherlands, Suriname, the Antilles, and Venezuela. Their influences and sounds create an eclectic stew of jazz, soul, and funk. With bold traces of Caribbean, Latin American, and African influences the group produces a rich, appealing, and distinctive sound.

Kultiplex, the band’s eighth release, shows the fortitude of a lasting camaraderie of musicians. The group consists of a saxophone and trumpet horn section with piano, guitar, and a potent bass, drum, and percussion rhythm section. To say the music is infectious is an understatement, as the music's eight selections blend free melodies with lively rhythms that are mature, engaging, and joyful.

The members of the septet offer vivid displays of talent and musicianship. The glue lies in the skilled rhythmic delivery of bassist Henar and drummer Guno Kramer, who keep the multifarious and complex syncopations tight and engaging with funky bass and drum work on the hip composition “Nights In Dzaoudzi.“ Pianist Robert Van Geer lays down delicate Fender Rhodes skill on the airy “Djamu.” The horn section of trumpeter Michael Simon and saxophonist Efraim Trujillo provide tight horn arrangements in general and also solo deeply on the high octane “Wakandi.”

The collage of international music is also what makes Kultiplex so interesting. From the funky Jamaican ska rhythm and horns of the opening selection to the Eastern/African/Indian hypnotism of “Les yeux des Tamashek” with its unique and wonderful guitar work by Andro Biswane, the music swirls with diversity on different levels. The percussion introduction on “Para United” is a sound of beauty as Carlo Ulrichi Hoop plays with abandon while Henar adds a rich tribal chant. The band's choice of an Afro Cuban and Western jazz backdrop is thankfully different.

With the advent of a US tour and a strong fan base in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, it will be easy to see and hear what all the “Fra Fra” is about. Globally and enthusiastically recommended.

Visit Fra Fra Sound on the web.


Track Listing: Franca Lucia, Les yeux des Tamashek, Djamu, Family Meetings, Para United, Bidjilo Park View, Nights in Dzaoudzi, Wakandi, Basekounou

Personnel: Andro Biswane, guitar; Robin van Geerke, piano; Vincnet Henar, E-bass, vocals, bandleader; Guno Kramer, drums; Michael Simon, trumpet, flugelhorn; Efraim Trujillo, tenor sax; Carlo Ulrichi Hoop, congas, percussion

Title: Kultiplex | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Pramisi Records

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