The word bokanté means “exchange” in Creole, the language of vocalist Malika Tirolien’s youth growing up on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. For the newly-formed “World Music Supergroup” (Pulse) Bokanté, connection is the foundation upon which all things are built.
John Lennon told us, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." And while Snarky Puppy leader Michael League was in Montreal making other plans – he heard the voice of local resident Malika Tirolien who’d ended up in Canada following a circuitous journey from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.
A chance exchange between the two kindred spirits led to League writing some music and melodies specifically for her which he sent to Tirolien with lyrical concepts attached. Tirolien then wrote lyrics and melodies, demoing and ping-ponging the new content back to Michael who was on the road with other bands until they had created an album's worth of songs.
Singing in both Creole and French, Tirolien’s words draw nuanced pictures of the struggles we face in our world today- racism, the refugee crisis, a dying planet, apathy towards human suffering- and offer words of thankfulness for those things which unify us, as well as hope for the future of our race.
League kept tinkering with his little experiment by trading his bass in for a baritone guitar and set out to build a band from scratch. The process of formation was all but conventional. Many of the musicians had never even met until the first day of recording.
By the end of the week-long session in upstate New York’s legendary Dreamland Studios, the band felt abnormally cohesive. “Unity was paramount in the formation of this group,” observed League. “Though the ensemble is multilingual, multicultural, 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.”
Workshopping the sound for some time on his own, League assures us it all came down to finding the right people. “Each person has their own personality. But I felt from the very beginning that the combination would be something special,” he says. “While it’s already been so much easier than the ten year build up that Snarky Puppy had before being recognized, the process of starting an independent original music ensemble from scratch is never easy.”
But with a simple mission in mind for Bokanté, League says the primary focus is simple – to make good music.