Members: Yvon Tatafasa, vocals and rhythm guitar; David Rajaonary, bass and vocals; Mamoudou Konate, percussion and vocals; Monvelyno Alexis, lead guitar and vocals
Who we talked to: Tatafasa (Born in 1967 in Madagascar, a country he said does not celebrate birthdays)
How did you guys meet/ How long have you been performing together? Before I had a band called Mora Mora. The reason I started the band was because I walked around and (listened) to other bands here in York, and they all kind of, like, do almost the same thing. I started the band just to try to bring different music (to) York. (Mora Mora) didn't last long. I stared a new band B-Tropical. I met my friend (and bass player David Rajaonary) in Washington. I went to (a) fundraising (event) and we met there and talked. I went to New York, and I met a couple guys (there).
What brought you to York originally? I grew up in Madagascar, and I came (to) York because I met my wife (who is) from York. (We) met in Madagascar. We stayed (there) for two years. We had a son and . . . we moved here to get a better education for him. That was in 2002.
I guess that's a pretty big change. Yes. (Laughs) I was shocked . . . the first time I came here. My whole life was in Madagascar, and this was the first country I visited outside of Madagascar.
Can you talk about the music and culture in Madagascar? The music there (is) part of life every day. If you stay in a village there, every evening everybody gathers together and (sings) along and plays . . . hand drums. Everybody participates. They sing along. They dance. That's kind of (what) I want to bring here. When we play, I always dance. I always try to get people to dance (and) to be comfortable dancing.
When did you start to play music? When I was . . . around 12. My brother and my uncle played music. My grandmother played piano and (sang) in the church. We all . . . grew up on music. My brother is a very good bass player. He played in a band in Madagascar. I wanted to join the band at that time, but I was very young. He didn't let me. (Laughs) After they practiced, they went out and I sneaked into his room and tried to learn guitar. I didn't take any (classes) in . . . music.
Did he ever catch you? I looked at (his band) when they played, and I copied that and that's the way I learned the guitar. He was very surprised when he caught me playing guitar. Then, he stared helping me more.
What artists inspired you? I was very inspired (by) Johnny Clegg from South Africa and Paul Simon.
Did radio stations in Madagascar play American music? Yes. In Madagascar they played all different music. They played a lot of popular music (in Africa and) popular music in Europe. They all kind of blended together. The musicians there learn all of that . . . to get everyone to enjoy (their music). We listened to a lot of American music and European music there.
What type of music does B-Tropical play? I was focused on the tropical. When I walk (into) a bar and there's music, people always asked me to play more reggae stuff because I have my dreads I guess. (Laughs) (With) the band I wanted to build, I wanted to mix everything. I wanted to blend everything in. It wasn't easy to get that started. When I started B-Tropical, I took a guy who's African (and) an American (to help blend things). People call us a reggae band. I call it more like African (and) Caribbean world music. It's kind of like a creation. If you've heard the first album we did last year ("Be Back Home") the rhythm of the songs (are) all different. We played some funk in it. But you hear something else on top of the funk.
Where do you play in the area? All summer I have to . . . tell some of the bars (including Knicker's Pub, Bistro 19 and White Rose Bar and Grill) that we can't do it because we're really kind of like booked. Our band . . . feels a little tight when we're inside. I guess it's because most of the gigs we do (are) outside. We (like to) feel that warm weather. We don't play much (in) the winter. What we do in the winter is (plan) for what we're going to do next summer. We already have a schedule (starting) in March.
I saw that you recently played a benefit to help build a school in Haiti. Can you talk about that? That was (with the) Vermont Haiti Project. Bonnie (Rubenstein) - the (organizer) - went to one of our shows in Baltimore and she bought a CD from me. I wrote a song called "Can't You Hear?" When the earthquake in Haiti happened. I wrote that song . . . for the children of Haiti. (Rubenstein) was . . . touched by the song and she went to Haiti and she saw . . . the thing that I'm talking (about) in the song. She came back and called me (to) help the children (with a benefit event at Maewyn's). We're going to do more benefits for that project.
- Erin McCracken, FlipSide staff
Listen to the interview: www.flipsidepa.com
Read more band interviews: www.flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory
See the band
B-Tropical will shoot a music video tonight at The Depot, 360 W. Cottage Place, York.
The band's vocalist and guitarist Yvon Tatafasa said the band posted about the event on Facebook and invites anyone interested to come out.
He said the band's recent album "Be Back Home" mostly contains happy music, so the band is interested in filling the club with people who are responding to their tunes.
B-Tropical is also scheduled to perform during New Year's Revolution on New Year's Eve in York. They take the stage at 9 p.m. to kick off the grand finale.
For details about the event, visit www.yorkcity.org.