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.
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
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.