Leeds big band Bassa Bassa, described as “merchants of musical mayhem”, have been around since 1987. In that time over 80 musicians have passed through the ranks of the band’s brass and sax frontline with full rhythm section. The band has appeared at Glastonbury and WOMAD, made trips to France and Ireland, and featured in many festivals around the UK and Europe. They have also often brought their commitment to benefits and demonstrations for causes ranging from Drop the Debt back to the days of Anti-Apartheid, Nicaraguan Solidarity and the Poll Tax. Strong jazz foundations blend with blasts of ska, latin, african, and funk – always with a colourful and energetic stage presence of musicians who are obviously enjoying themselves.
Founded by Sam Paechter and Rachel Richman in 1987, the band caught the rising wave of World Music, but have never been easy to pigeonhole. The band is a loose collective centred around the longer-term members. Bassa Bassa has made a big contribution to Leeds’ vibrant musical life since the late 1980s, without ever looking for, needing or receiving official backing.
Despite their openness to all contributions the band has always aimed for high standards. With three recordings under their belt (the first was recorded back in the late 80s with support from fellow Leeds band Chumbawamba) the band seem happy to keep rolling into the future.
And the name? “Somebody once assured us that it means pandemonium in West Africa. We since found out that it’s also the name of a cooking sauce in the West Indies, a dust-up in Barbados, a township in Louisiana, a minority people in Liberia, the Latin name for a gannet, not to mention the British Airlines Steward and Stewardesses Association, it’s whatever you want it to be.