Toubab Krewe brings their blend of African-infused rock to Champaign

Listening to Toubab Krewe is like being guided through a scenic tour of the history of music from the perspective of a world citizen. Justin Perkins, who plays guitar and several West African instruments for Toubab Krewe, has a vision of his band as a combination of American music and traditional West African music.
“We’re somewhere between worlds,” he said, continuing his thought to list a catalog of incredibly diverse sounds and styles that have influenced Toubab Krewe, including “country, surf music and zydeco.” What remains is quite an impressive goal for any band — to tackle the whole of 20th-century American music while also paying homage to the West African music that so captivated them in their youth.
According to Perkins, the fascination with African rhythms started in college. This passion led the band members to take several trips to West Africa to study the wide variety of music produced there.
“Getting interested in African music was a large piece of the puzzle,” Perkins said. After working as part of a drum and dance ensemble in their college years, Perkins and fellow members Teal Brown, Drew Heller, David Pransky and Luke Quaranta officially formed Toubab Krewe in 2005. Perkins feels there is a natural chemistry among all the members. He has known guitarist Drew Heller since he was 5 years old, and the band has become a form of family for himself and the others.
Perkins also has a very philosophical view of the type of live performances Toubab Krewe gives.
“It’s all instrumental,” he said, “so you can interpret the music however you want to and do what you want with it.” This vision of music as spiritual and constantly mutating into something new will likely cement the band as trailblazers for a new age in which the genre distinctions of decades past will cease to matter. But Perkins also reminds us that music is about entertainment and losing yourself in the live experience. “Our music is very danceable. It’s alive, and it’s electric.”
Toubab Krewe will bring their African-infused jams to Cowboy Monkey with like-minded locals Mhondoro Rhythm Success on Feb. 20. The music starts at 9:30 p.m., and tickets are $10 at the door.

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