It’s been quite a ride for Aphrodesia since their birth in 2003. After all, this is the same band that played the legendary Shrine nightclub in Lagos, Nigeria during a month spent in West Africa in 2006, that undertook a cross-country voter-registration tour in a vegetable oil-powered bus in 2004 and that continues to reap accolades everywhere from National Public Radio to USA Today. Through it all the San Francisco-based 11-piece ensemble has won audiences over with an eclectic, unique sound- a blend of rich, female lead vocals and slamming horn-laden polyrhythmic funk that Global Rhythm Magazine called “a Pan-African mash-up”.
While the members of Aphrodesia are admirers of West African styles like afrobeat and Highlife- enough so that the group spent a month performing and living in Ghana in 2006, in the process journeying through Togo and Benin to Nigeria to perform at the Shrine with Femi Kuti- the group’s sound has always included touches of funk, dub, Zimbabwean trance, hip-hop and global pop. The band’s fourth studio album “Precious Commodity”, released in July of 2009- is its strongest and most diverse yet, pairing new powerhouses from the band’s live set like “Special Girl” and “Say What” with studio creations like the “Nov 5″ pieces that bookend the album, placing the band firmly in the company or experimental rock bands like NOMO and the Dirty Projectors. And the group shows no signs of slowing down. Despite being officially bi-coastal (bassist Ezra Gale has lived in Brooklyn since 2009) and some lineup shuffles that saw the band part ways with longtime singer Lara Maykovich, Aphrodesia plans to take a brand new batch of songs into the studio for a fifth album, to be released sometime in 2010. Birthed in 2003 in Gale’s backyard shack, Aphrodesia quickly recorded “Shackrobeat Vol. 1″, a disc heavily influenced by Maykovich’s previous experience living in Ghana and Zimbabwe. The disc was picked as a top record of 2003 by the East Bay Express, and The following year the politically outspoken group launched the ‘Just Vote Tour’, a cross-country swing-state voter registration tour undertaken in the group’s vegetable oil-powered bus that landed in New York City during the Republican National Convention. The group’s second album, “Front Lines”, was recorded soon after and featured the layered lead vocals of Maykovich and Maya Dorn, several bold originals penned by the group and eclectic guest performers ranging from Tom Waits sideman Ralph Carney to former Sierra Club president Adam Werbach. Featured on National Public Radio, the album was also ecstatically reviewed by outlets from Global Rhythm Magazine to the Village Voice. The group’s third disc, “Lagos By Bus” (2007), recorded after the band’s trip to West Africa, showed a songwriting growth and maturity that was reflected in songs about their experience in Africa, and garnered the group extensive critical accolades. The group’s reputation as a show-stopping live act, built on frequent cross-country touring across the US and Canada that has left audiences hungry for more, has been well-earned. The band’s lineup includes singers Maya Dorn, Marisa Green and Mouzhan Yousefi, longtime guitarists Chris Mulhauser and Michael Abraham, bassist Gale and drummer Jason Slota, a horn section of trumpeter Henry Hung, trombonist Liz Larson, and saxophonists Mitch Marcus, Sylvain Carton and Charlie Gurke, and percussionist Mike Spooner. They’ve graced festival stages from the High Sierra Music Festival to the Aspen Jazz Festival, and played legendary venues from SF’s Fillmore to New York’s S.O.B.’s. They’ve opened for Maceo Parker, Steel Pulse, the String Cheese Incident, the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, Konono no. 1 and many more. Now entering its seventh year as a band, Aphrodesia looks like it’s heading for it most powerful sound yet.