Formed by Snarky Puppy bassist/ bandleader Michael League, Bokanté boasts an impressive line-up of international performers including Guadeloupe-born vocalist and singer-songwriter, Malika Tirolien.
With the impending release of their debut album, ‘Strange Circles’ in May, Bokanté will perform for the very first time in Australia as part of this year’s WOMADelaide and Malika says she can’t wait to get here. “We're happy and really excited about our trip to Australia, it’s going to be our first time,” Malika says.
“It's basically the end of the world and it's amazing how far we're going to be. I’m personally very excited about it and I can't wait to meet the other musicians and all the people we're going to have the chance to see over there. It's really amazing.”
Hailing from the Caribbean and currently residing in Montreal, Malika sings in both French and Creole, the word ‘bokante’ meaning ‘exchange’ in Creole and forming the philosophical basis for the band. “That is quite literally what is happening in the band,” Malika says.
“In the process of writing, it's really going in all aspects of exchange. Everybody is exchanging ideas, and we are talking about racism, we're talking about how sometimes some things go too far into the extreme.
“We're talking about borders, about immigration, about things that are actually happening right now in the world and we just have to remember that this Earth is for everyone and we should all be taking care of the Earth, and share our cultures and knowledge about all of these things.”
Joining Malika and Michael in Bokanté are his Snarky Puppy compatriots Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti, lap steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier, as well as percussionists Jamey Haddad, Andre Ferrari and Keita Ogawa.
“Michael has brought all these people together who didn't necessarily know one another, and the fact that it worked with the chemistry with the music, the listening and the vibe, everything went so smoothly for the recording. It's beautiful to see,” Malika says.
Malika's contribution to the musical exchange with the band comes in the form of lyrics written in the Creole language. “I speak Creole, so I’m bringing this aspect of my culture into the band,” she says.
“We live in a world where English is really the most important language, if we can say that, but it's important also to remember that it is language that enriches.
“Even me, as a little girl I wouldn't understand English, but I would still vibrate on English music or American music, and any language it's not a problem, it comes from the heart and what you can't understand lyrically you can feel through the music.”
Bokanté have already released ‘Jou Ké Ouvè’, the first single from ‘Strange Circles’, as well as a video for the track that Malika says is an excellent introduction for both the group to new audiences, and vice-versa.
“We are really happy about the reception we're getting from the video,” she says. “It's wonderful to work with this kind of talented musician and this calibre of musician. It's really interesting the chemistry that is happening within the band, for a band that is that new.”
Bokante perform as part of WOMADelaide, which takes place at The Botanic Garden 10-13 March.