Maciek Schejbal, Afro-Polka bandleader and author of Afropop Play-Along for Drummers, releases a new album of songs alongside longtime musical friend and multi-instrumentalist Tony Cedras. River Conversations is a celebration of their friendship after meeting during hurricane Sandy in 2012. The duo recorded folkloric South African songs, as well as compositions by Cedras, Miriam Makeba, and a collaboration between the two musicians in Schejbal’s Afro-Polka studio near the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York. Both musicians are veterans of a diverse musical life. Schejbal is a Polish immigrant steeped in Afropop by way of South Africa, and Cedras is a South African native who toured in Paul Simon’s Graceland band for many years.
The centerpiece of Schejbal’s minimal drumkit is a djembe in the snare position, as well as a kick drum, 8” DW chrome tom, and a floor tom with various cymbals and bells played mostly with Blasticks. His sensitive and subtle playing supports and uplifts Cedras’ musical expressions to a tee. The sounds are captured beautifully, due to Schejbal’s masterful audio engineering, mixing, and mastering skills. (He teaches recording techniques and drumming at the Collective School of Music in New York.)
Cedras sings in English, Xhosa, and Afrikaans with his sublime, weathered storyteller voice, and also plays guitar, trumpet, accordion, and berimbau. The music is indeed relaxed, mellow, and conversational, as it is when old friends get together. (Afro-Polka Productions)
– Dave Previ, Modern Drummer Magazine, 2020
Afro-Polka All-Stars at 55 Bar, Guitarete review by Alan Barry
Artist: Maciek Schejbal
Label: Afro Polka Productions
Released: Fall 2018
Maciek Schejbal (pronounced MAH-chek SHAY-bal) is world-class drummer based in New York City. In addition to gigging and touring with jazz bands and afro-pop groups, Maciek is an instructor at the Drummers Collective in Manhattan. The Drummers Collective is generally thought of as the drumming equivalent of Los Angeles' Guitar Institute of Technology.
Afro-Polka is Maciek's brand and a nascent genre of music. It's the soundtrack of one musician's voyage from Eastern Europe through South Africa to the USA. He has traveled, listened, learned and amalgamated a huge amount of styles, traditions and art forms into a strong, singular and original musical voice. From Cracow, to Johannesburg and Cape Town, and then onto New York City, Maciek has formed crack rhythm sections with some of the best bass players in the world.
Afro-Polka is Maciek's first album consisting entirely of his compositions with quotes from the Polish folk music. The tunes are performed here with many great musicians he has collaborated with in his journeys. Don’t be scared by the polka, these fresh sounding tracks are very afro-pop and jazz focused. The polka is the added seasoning that makes it unique.
Every player on this record is a virtuoso and has played in bands with or on albums of some very well known musical artists and they are all deserving of recognition. Due to the emphasis on the Maciek's partnerships with bass players, here are some notable connections of the bass players on this album: Fred Doumbe (Manu Dibango, Les Nubians); Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon); Leo Traversa (Angelique Kidjo, Don Byron); Gregory Jones (Astrid Gilberto, Savion Glover); Essiet Okon Essiet (Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard); John Patitucci (Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea).
This is not a typical drummer's solo record. On Afro-Polka, Maciek lays down an amazing array of grooves and melodies and musical worlds reminiscent of Hermeto Pascoal, Joe Zawinul, and even of Frank Zappa. He has a strong command of a wide range of colors and ideas and he makes them his own, not being held back by convention or by the business of making music. He takes the listener on a very personal journey that could only be an expression of his own travels and discoveries. After listening to this recording one has a pretty good idea of how, where and when Maciek has lived, loved, traveled and played throughout his life, with dedication, reverence, love and an open mind.
– Sean Conly, 2018
A Field Guide to the Afro-Polka Recordings:
EACH TUNE QUOTES POLISH FOLK THEMES AND MELODIES
- Crack Off : As with most of the titles on this album, it's a double meaning with a satiric twist. Crack Off means saying goodbye to Cracow, sadly signing off. Quoting the region's folk tune "I'm leaving Cracow into far and foreign places". Trumpeter's take on a famous Cracow bugle call.
Jerome Harris, Sheryl Bailey-guitars; Dan Brantigan-trumpet; Kaïssa Doumbè-vocals; Fred Doumbè-bass; Maciek Schejbal-drums, programming.
- Bike With Me : A story of a bike ride along Hudson river upstate New York, easy start slowly morphing into an uphill battle...
Jerome Harris, Sheryl Bailey-guitars; Dan Brantigan-trumpet, flugelhorn; John Patitucci-bass; Maciek Schejbal-drums.
- Sick Amore : Based on a Cracow folk tune about a girl rejecting forceful advances of kings and paupers, everything happens under the sycamore (Sick Amore:) tree.
Sean Wayland-synthesizers, programming; Jerome Harris, Sheryl Bailey-guitars; Bakithi Kumalo-bass; Maciek Schejbal-drums, synthesizers.
- I Wander : Based on a folk song about Gypsies, the original wanderers, their customs and leisure times with Phillippa's personal take on this in her poem (read it below) and Kaissa's French version of it.
Phillippa Yaa De Villiers-lyrics; Kaïssa Doumbè-voice; Jerome Harris-electric guitar; Sheryl Bailey-acoustic guitar; Dan Brantigan-trumpet; Leo Traversa-bass; Maciek Schejbal-drums.
- Morning People : A nod to early risers who get things done, strong South African music elements akin to Soul Brothers and township groove.
Jerome Harris, Sheryl Bailey, Gregg Fine-guitars; Brian Charette-organ; Dan Brantigan-trumpet; Gregory Jones-bass; Maciek Schejbal-drums.
- The Race Of Tad : Quoting a phrase from a folk song "A bird arriving to Cracow musing on topsy-turvy houses on the market square eventually joining the party and singing ‘tada rasa' (the race of Tad)", a reference to Maciek's impressions of changes taking place in his home town.
Jerome Harris, Sheryl Bailey-guitars; John Patitucci-acoustic and electric basses; Maciek Schejbal-drums.
- Martino's Basement : A tribute to late Martino Atangana and his soukous guitar lines along the Polish Highlinders folk music groove.
Jerome Harris, Sheryl Bailey-guitars; Brian Charette-organ; Dan Brantigan-trumpet; Fred Doumbè, Gregory Jones-basses; Maciek Schejbal-drums; The Highlanders Afro-Polka Ensemble: John Patitucci, Essiet Okon Essiet-double basses; Sachi Patitucci-cello.
- Wonder Bro : For all our wonderful brothers.
Sheryl Bailey-acoustic and electric guitars; Sean Wayland-synthesizer; Leo Traversa-fretless bass; Maciek Schejbal-drums, synthesizer
Played on WUSB 90.1FM Fermented Radio by Marc Greene, September 28th, 2018, 10am
WVKR interview hosted by Akenataa Hammagaadji, July 19th, 2018
Crack Off from Afro-Polka album was featured on WBAI AfroBeat Radio hosted by Wuyi Jacobs, July 14th, 2018
WANDERERS (I WANDER)
from the album Afro-Polka
WRITTEN BY PHILLIPPA YAA DE VILLIERS
FRENCH TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION BY KAÏSSA DOUMBÈ
I never wanted to be fenced in
Something about the call of the horizon
First time I saw you was in silhouette
With galaxies behind you, I could navigate
Now we meet on a similar street
Our lives intersecting twenty years in between and
Baby you look just the same as you did before
With eyes like blue storms over mountains...
We were wanderers
searching the world for a home
only at home in a world of two
And you can't cage a wandering song
inside that dream
I was dying
last time I saw you was on Route 64
getting smaller as I drove away
It's been such a long time since we sang
that wandering song
I've still got that dream if you want
you can come along
and we still have that feeling
that brought us together that long ago time
How does it go again, that half-forgotten song
Can you remember how it goes again?
(...) She [Kaïssa] opened her set with To Ndjé (...), before being joined on stage [Satellit Cafe-Paris] by the twirling Franky [Moulet] on bass, the discrete and efficient Francis Legrand on guitar and, the most Cameroonian of Polish musicians, the grooving drummer Maciek Schejbal. His playing of rhythms such as the bikutsi is as spectacular as it is effective, making him a serious candidate for a place in the pantheon of Cameroon's greatest drummers. (...)
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