For the international music ensemble Bokanté, connection is the foundation upon which all things are built. Among the members themselves, the connections span almost two decades. But outwardly, the band’s formation was born in the desire to connect with society and the problems most urgently facing it. Rich in the sound of both delta and desert, the unusual but evocative instrumentation blends musical worlds to convey an urgent message of social awareness against the rising tide of exclusion and human indifference.

The word bokanté means “exchange” in Creole, the language of vocalist Malika Tirolien’s youth growing up on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Now living in Montreal, she stands among musicians from 4 continents, each one accomplished in their own right and well versed in music far beyond that of their point of origin. Five-time Grammy award-winning guitarists Michael League, Chris McQueen, and Bob Lanzetti (all from Snarky Puppy), percussion legend Jamey Haddad (Paul Simon, Sting), pedal and lap steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier (Lee Boys, Karl Denson), and celebrated percussionists Keita Ogawa (Banda Magda, Yo-Yo Ma) and Weedie Braimah (Christian Scott) come together to create a diverse ensemble rich in groove, melody, and soul.

Michael League comments, “Though the ensemble is multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and multi-generational, we all feel connected as musicians and people. And in combining our different accents I feel that there is a strangely common and poignant sound, one that can reach and relate to listeners around the world.”

Their 2023, Grammy nominate release, History finds them exploring further, dressing folkloric instruments including the Arabic oud, West African ngoni and North African guembri, the bass lute favoured by Morocco’s Gnawa maalems, in western clothes.  Bokante’s founder has long been a student of instruments from elsewhere. League has learned Turkish percussion in Istanbul and traditional guembri techniques from Gnawa mentors. He has immersed himself in the oeuvres of such feted Malian musicians as Ali Farke Touré and ngoni- wizard Bassekou Kouyaté.

With lyrics sung mainly in lead singer Malika Tirolien’s Guadeloupean Creole, her honeyed voice channels a zeitgeist recently focused on issues including identity, decolonisation and alternative histories. The only song sung in English is title track ‘History’ with its Prince-esque guembri riff which League describes as, “intending to show the power of the band.” 

Three albums and two Grammy Nominations later, Bokante are going strong.  The depth of talent within the band has produced a sound unlike any other. With a simple mission in mind for Bokanté, League says the primary focus is simple – to make good music.

Contact Info

Management | Mike Chadwick Management, Mike Chadwick: +44 1204 240307
Press |
 Jamie Margulies
Label |
 GroundUp Music
Discography |
Bokanté on AllMusic.com