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UKANDANZ

RIO/Avant-Prog • France


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uKanDanZ biography
Founded in Lyon, France in 2006

The French quintet UKANDANZ, a self-described "Ethiopian Crunch Music" ensemble, is a multi-national group playing high-energy ethnic jazz/noise rock with melodies inspired by Ethiopian folk and pop music. They are fronted by the considerable vocal prowess of Asnake GUEBREYES, and sport a very lively ensemble sound, often danceable, sometimes dissonant, always rhythmic. Lionel MARTIN provides a very visible tenor sax presence, tying in a jazz element, and Damien CLUZEL contributes guitar (as baritone guitar) with strong evidence of Rock-In-Opposition-like stylings. Fred ESCOUFFIER handles keyboard duties, and Guilhem MEIER keeps the drums busy yet funky.

Their first album, "Yetchalal", was released in late 2012, produced by the band.

See also: HERE

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UKANDANZ discography


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UKANDANZ top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 6 ratings
Yetchalal
2012
3.96 | 10 ratings
Awo
2016
0.00 | 0 ratings
Yeketelale
2018

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UKANDANZ Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Awo by UKANDANZ album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.96 | 10 ratings

BUY
Awo
uKanDanZ RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Ethiopia has always been the odd nation out in Africa having been the only land to adopt Christianity without a gun to their heads as well as the only nation to escape colonization save a 17 year period by Italy but even more importantly, Ethiopia is unlike any other nation when it comes to music. While the nations hosts a long list of ethnic groups with their own sounds, the nation as a whole has generated a unique form of jazz mixed with ethnic sounds that has been dubbed Ethio-jazz with artists like Mahmoud Ahmed and Mulatu Astatke dominating the scene. Here's another unique musical sound to add to this nation's resume for weird music. UKANDANZ was formed when a group of French musicians were in Addis Ababa where they met up with lead singer Asnake Gèbrèyès and the group got along so well they decided to form a band together.

This band sometimes with the stylized moniker uKanDanZ was inspired by traditional Ethio-jazz but forced it into a weird commingling of avant-prog, math rock, punk and noise. The result is a fascinating hybrid of cross-culture eclecticism run amok. The band's debut album "Yetchalat" caught the attention of the underground music scene and got these guys invited to perform at the 2015 Rock in Opposition festival in Le Garric, France which catapulted them into a much larger stage. The band went back to the studio and recorded its second album AWO which as far as i can tell means something like "yes man" and when someone asks you in Ethiopia if U KAN DANZ then if U KAN then you say AWO! While this isn't exactly dance music it does have its moments that are close and while the opening "Tchuhetén Betsèmu" sounds more like traditional Ethio-jazz than anything remotely prog, it doesn't take too long for the avant-prog punk and math rock angularities to burst into the scene.

This is truly a wild collection of tracks that work surprisingly well and perhaps the most unusual hybridization of African music with Western skronk ever recorded. While it seems that the saxophone contributions of Lionel Martin keep the Ethio-grooves flowing along with Gèbrèyès' passionate charismatic singing style, the bass, guitar and drums are all over the place when it comes to generating off-kilter time signature frenzies, dissonant math rock complexities along with a punk infused sense of rawness that makes me think of some of the more adventurous moments of NoMeansNo. The tracks manage to maintain the Ehtio-melodic flow despite the barrage of proggy hard hitting cacophonous din that erupts from the French side of the equation. This thunderous storm sustains itself throughout the album with the climactic finale "Ambassel To Brussel" which features some of the most jarring and adventurous finger-breaking instrumental workouts. Somehow Gèbrèyès keeps his composure throughout this bantering attempt to derail the rhythmic flow but mother Africa triumphs as the avant-prog is kept on the leash.

Self-described as "Ethiopian crunch music," UKANDANZ finds some of the most unique ways to force what's generally described as pop melodies into twisted amorphous monsters that conspire to create an unusual clash of cultures but in a very good way! With hypnotic bass grooves and skronk fueled guitar distortion, the music succeeds in maintaining a composure that sometimes sounds like Captain Beefheart is conducting this musical affair but thanks to the vocal / sax combo keeps things humming fairly well. All tracks are fairly unique and sung in Amharic so this has a very exotic musical flare even if you are familiar with the Ehtiopiques ethnic series of albums that cover the gamut of Ethio-jazz superstars. This is truly one not to be missed as this band has captured a style that is utterly unique and best of all it actually works to the point that this is fairly addictive with a single listen. Imagine Mahamoud Ahmad with NoMeansNo, Captain Beefheart and an occasional visit from Ornette Coleman and you may be able to imagine what this sounds like!

 Awo by UKANDANZ album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.96 | 10 ratings

BUY
Awo
uKanDanZ RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Eclectic Team

4 stars Ukandanz burst onto the Avant scene in 2012 with their debut of Ethiopian / French Crunchy Avant though much of the music on the album was fresh takes on popular Ethiopian music. Their new album is mainly original compositions and benefits significantly from playing to the bands strengths. Asnake Gebreyes is an extremely strong Ethiopian vocalist who's high energy vocal gymnastics are a major feature of the band. The instrumental members of the band come from the vibrant Lyon scene that seems to produce so many excellent bands, Benoît Lecomte (bass) is a member of ni, & Guilhem Meier (drums) is in PoiL. As you would expect from that background the music is extremely frenetic, energetic and rapid moving. The combination of vocals and high energy band works really well and this is a good step forward for the band. They played the Rock In Opposition festival in recent years and went down extremely well. Recommended.
 Yetchalal by UKANDANZ album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.00 | 6 ratings

BUY
Yetchalal
uKanDanZ RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

4 stars Revision 11/25/2013: Moved the rating from a 5 to a 4. I originally assumed that most of the compositions on this album were originals (or at least loose adaptations of existing melodies), but upon learning that many of them are essentially faithful covers (and after hearing some of the originals), I've had to revise my original opinion of this album. Although it's still an endlessly exciting ride, it's not quite as "original" and musically creative as I had first thought, and thus I no longer feel it's deserving of the"masterpiece" status that earns 5 stars. It's still freakin' great, though. The original unedited review remains below:

I can't help but imagine the words "You Can Dance" when reading this band's name. And that's no coincidence: you can dance if you wannooo, you can leave your friends behind. Cause your friends may not have the dexterity to keep up with this avant-rock monster of an album.

RIO-influenced tangled melodic lines on guitar and tenor saxophone get prodded by a powerful rhythm section, pushing the music into the high-intensity zone that makes it hard to not want to dance. This stuff MOVES in a way that may seem antithetic to the clinical, unsmiling face that the RIO/Avant Prog tag often suggests. This is party music for circus acrobats.

The true secret weapon of this band, however, is the lead vocalist. He weaves impossibly complex melodic lines over the hard-charging, twisting music, drawing inspiration from Ethiopian traditional and popular songs. With all the throat noises, crazy trills, and impressive mobility around his chosen scale(s), he sounds very unique indeed in the context of Western prog. Depending on your tolerance of non-Western music, you may have a bit of trouble at first, but for fans accustomed to the non-Western influences often found in Rock-in-Opposition bands, there shouldn't be much trouble assimilating this.

The album consists of seven tracks ranging from three to nine minutes, and cover a variety of tempos, from the sullen jazz-tango of "Sema" to the fast and furious 4/4 stomp (almost ska!) of "Belomi Benna". The album opens with the confident march of "Aykedashem Lebe", establishing the band's formidable instrumental presence with a powerful avant-rock theme for a full minute and a half before the vocals come out of nowhere and take the track to a new level. A perfect opening track that shows the full range of the band and vocalist, and leaves you wanting more. Each song provides additional thrills, only really letting up on the nine-minute penultimate track, the slow, plodding "La Chamelle - Medinana Zelessegna" (actually a medley of two tracks), which has the ominous dark swing of something off 5uu's Hunger's Teeth album. But by then, this change of pace is welcome, and we are rewarded with the lively "Datsun Sefer - Mela Mela" to close out the album on a festive mood, what with the chant-along chorus of "Mela Mela" allowing the listener to join in the fun.

I've only had this album for two weeks (it was released 2 months ago), but it's hard to find fault with any of it. Every time I put it on, I find myself getting into it, and hardly ever turn it off before it's finished, like I often do in my short attention span world. The band has a unique sound that is as accessible and compelling as it is complex and daring, and they have a thoroughly non-standard (for Western music) singer who hits it out of the park again and again.

I'm going to throw caution to the wind and give this five full stars. Can't think of any good reason not to at this point.

Thanks to HolyMoly for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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