On his 2012 album En Yay Sah, Janka Nabay reimagined the bubu pop music of his native Sierra Leone with a group of Brooklyn-based art rockers, including members of Skeletons and Gang Gang Dance. Once a Sierra Leonean star praised as the King of Bubu, Nabay still retains the genre’s call-and-response chants and circular, clack-clacking rhythms, but has ditched bubu’s traditional bamboo shoots for synthesizers, hair-singeing electric guitars, and the occasional programmed beat. The novelty of Nabay’s sound is surely one reason his band inked a contract with David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label—En Yay Sah has been described as the first international bubu album—but give equal credit to Nabay’s talents as a frontman: He sings in an elastic bark that’s deep and damaged-sounding, and onstage he has a jumpy, room-filling presence despite his wiry frame. Tonight’s Bubu Gang lineup includes experimental rockers both from New York and D.C. But whatever it sounds like, it’ll definitely still be bubu.
Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang performs with Emmerson and Afro National at 9 p.m. at Plum Orchard Conference Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Drive, Silver Spring. $20-$65. (240) 423-8699. emmerson-janka-national-ramanu-eorg.eventbrite.com.