Antibalas’s Raja Kassis Shares New Single Honoring Immigrants In America
With President-elect Donald Trump set to take office tomorrow, a growing number of American citizens are truly troubled by what they’ve witnessed from this administration. Anyone with a voice is left with no choice but to use it, and one of those people is Raja Kassis, a touring member of the Antibalas band and leader of Raja Kassis’ Humanbeing and Pirate’s Choice. Today, Kassis has released the song “Don’t Leave (Doumala Baayi)” through Ropeadope Records, celebrating the legacy of immigrants in America.The track was originally recorded for an album in 2014, but ultimately shelved since it was a cover of legendary Senegalese artist N’dongo Lo. They have played it live many times, and it’s always a fan favorite. “Because it was a favorite to play in the late night traditional Senegalese parties which we did in Harlem for years, we just kind of did it for fun because we loved playing it and audiences ate it up.” Kassis only decided to release the track years later, but first some touch ups needed to be done.The rhythm section on the track is true to its Senegalese roots, with a tight section composed of Mahanta Faye (lemzo Diamano) on drumset, Mor Coumba Gueye (grandson of Doudou N’diaye Rose) and Magatte Fall (Angelique Kidjo) on Sabar percussions, Arone N’diaye (who actually toured with N’dongo Lo) on marimba keyboards, Patrice Blanchard on bass and Kassis on guitar. After revisiting the track, Kassis decided to enlist a powerful horn section to bring it to life, and called on Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II (Ghost Note) on baritone sax, Nadav Nirenberg (Ikebe Shakedown) on trombone, Mike Buckley (Sharon Jones/Lee Fields) on tenor sax, Jason Colby (Lee Fields and the Expressions) on trumpet and Sam Hoyt (Jorge Ben) on trumpet.The result is a lively recording that merges Kassis’ two main influences of New Orleans and Senegal. Though the song is an instrumental, this merger is symbolic of the true spirit of America and its immigrant legacy, celebrating the old and welcoming the new. Says Kassis, “I would like to say that we in fact DON’T want you to leave despite what you may hear people saying for political gain. The promise of this country has always been that no matter where you’re from, you belong, as at some point, unless you’re Native American, we are all immigrants as well. Above all else, it is the kaleidoscope of culture that is in fact the very essence of this great American experiment. That will always be something worth fighting for.”You can listen to Kassis’ “Don’t Leave (Doumala Baayi),” streaming below.<a href=”http://rajakassis.bandcamp.com/track/dont-leave-doumala-baayi-single”>Don’t Leave (Doumala Baayi) – Single by Raja Kassis</a>In keeping up with this spirit, Antibalas will perform an Anti-ball concert in Washington DC on January 21st, with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. More details can be found here. You can also find Kassis’ debut album and more on his Bandcamp page.