Thrilling audiences by blending the improvisation of jazz, the cultural depth of world music, and the soulfulness of devotional kirtan, BOLO's infectious rhythm gets people moving.
BOLO is comprised of three musical innovators: Eliyahu Sills, made his start playing upright bass in NYC's jazz & hip-hop scenes. After immersing himself in the ney and bansuri, the flutes of India and the Middle East, he became the renowned band-leader of Eliyahu & The Qadim Ensemble whose CD reached #7 on Billboard’s World Music Charts. Surya Prakasha is a sought after drummer in the Bay Area jazz and world music scenes, and has worked with renowned artists such as Lavay Smith. A devotee of the yogic path and a student of Jai Uttal, Surya is a soulful kirtan leader on vocals and harmonium. Evan Fraser is a member of many highly acclaimed world music and electronica projects, such as Stellamara, Hamsa Lila, and Dirtwire, whose recent album hit #1 on iTunes world music charts. He plays West African kamale ngoni (harp), kalimba, percussion and jaw harps from across the globe.
Featuring African sourced grooves with sacred folk songs from around the world, BOLO speaks to the heart in a musical language that unites us all.
Quotes from Press:
“You have never heard something like this . . . the listener will be stopped in his tracks and left gasping for breath at the beauty of each track.”
-The World Music Report
full review here:
“taking the traditional and kicking it into the future . . . A wonderful journey to the out of the ordinary.”
full review here:
-World Music Central
full review here:
"There is an ancestral vocation that devout musicians draw inspiration and bearing from. Once on this chosen spiritual path, they enter into a mesmerizing plateau of creativity which is only accessible through profound belief in the task at hand, and a complete mastery of their instrument. The multi-instrumental trio of Surya Prakasha, Evan Fraser and Eliyahu Sills, known collectively as Bolo, on their self-titled release, have taken a cross cultural musical odyssey into that space in time where ancient intonations and traditions merge into a modern yet organic sensibility. “
-All About Jazz
full review here:
"There was a time during the late ’70s and early ’80s when modern jazz and world music made easy bedfellows. Witness Dudu Pukwana, Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela and, a little closer to home, Brittany’s Ti Jaz. Bolo are a three piece band of multicultural origin, based in the USA and they have successfully blended West and North African music, plus music from Turkey and India with the poly-rhythms of modern jazz. They execute a heady blend, on this their debut album, with such skill, audacity and panache that, I believe it would have amazed their predecessors. The opening track Xango, a song to a West African Yoruba deity, successfully pins their colours to the mast. Played on upright bass, kalimba, kit drums, vocals and harmonium, it is spacious, economic, hypnotic and totally natural, nothing forced or contrived. It is all held together by the musicians’ unique chemistry, an ability to play from the heart and a confidence that the music will lead them where they need to go. Beautifully recorded, rarely has music this far out of the box been so accessible. No guitars, no midi, no samples – just basic vernacular instruments such as the khol, the kora-like kamala ngoni, oud and bamboo flutes supported imaginatively by the string bass and drums. All three members of the band are multi-instrumentalists and they swap between instruments with ease so that each change of instrumentation takes usdeeper into the heart of the music. There is a considerable amount of improvisation on this CD but we are in safe hands. It’s a bit like Danny Thompson jamming with Elvin Jones, Stella Chiweshe and Toumani Diabaté on a really good night. I would love to see Bolo live, one for Ronnie Scott’s, I feel. A class act."
- Mark T., fROOTS magazine
“a wonderful surprise"
“infectious . . . beautiful ”
"I think BOLO deserves a Grammy nom!"
-Google Music Specialist Tomas Palermo
Airplay on WNYC -
Airplays on KCRW-
Review here - http://blogs.kcrw.com/rhythmplanet/show-117-what-im-listening-to/
More airplay - http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/todays-top-tune/thundercat-them-changes
Airplay on KPFK -
#2 on The Global Village July Top 40 New Releases List: 2013 Readers' Choice Award Winner - Best World Music Radio Show
#3 on the Top ten album list on KZSU!
Press Release: June 2015
Singing to the Divine on Their Debut
It’s a fresh recipe with ancient ingredients. The sweet music of the soul. It’s the sound of Bolo, who make the connections between different cultures and traditions and forge them into something new, still wearing the honor of the past, but also with the ripe taste of the future. What they’ve created shines out on their self-titled debut album, (released June 25, 2015). With all three members highly schooled in many styles of music, from jazz and soul to West African, North African and Indian, it’s the unique chemistry of the trio that’s set them exploring this untrodden path.
“From the time we first played together we knew we had the same approach in terms of trusting the groove,” explains Eliyahu Sills who plays upright bass, and Middle Eastern and Indian flutes. “We don’t feel we need to get our egos involved – we take turns in the lead with the others supporting.”
It’s music that takes its ethos from jazz and funk as well as from older sounds, truly collaborative acoustic music that can spiral and swoop and sometimes just forge its way ahead.
Multi-instrumentalist Evan Fraser had already been involved in many successful global music projects before he met Sills on stage at Burning Man. Soon he was playing on the CD by Eliyahu & The Qadim Ensemble, which reached #7 on Billboard’s World Music charts. Surya Prakasha, a highly sought after drummer in the Bay Area jazz scene, was already an occasional bandmate with Sills. When they finally played all together, it was magic.
The music they made felt right, completely natural, a meeting of minds. And so Bolo was born. In the two years since then they’ve been gigging, rehearsing, and refining their sound. They’ve experimented with different styles, using Fraser’s kamele ngoni harps like a Moroccan bass gimbri, for instance, or playing the kalimba (thumb piano) with Prakasha’s drum kit or harmonium to create moods and change the flow of a piece. All they’ve learned and developed is on Bolo. It’s jazz that draws its heartbeat from the world. All three members are multi-instrumentalists (11 between them) and sing, often switching instruments in the course of a single piece to change the texture and color of the music, both in performance and on CD. Bass can give way to bansuri, drums to harmonium, from instruments to voice, delving deeper into the heart of a melody until they sound like a much larger ensemble.
“For years I went to the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco,” Fraser says. “That really shaped my understanding of music and spirituality as a tool of praise.”
And, indeed, the exploration that propelled Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” is the sensibility underneath Bolo’s sound. There’s a very spiritual side to the music, and it’s history as it has traveled around the globe. The album’s powerful opener, “Xangô,” for example, is a song to the West African Yoruba deity.
“When I sing that I’m reminded of slavery and the Middle Passage,” Prakasha says. “These prayers survived that atrocity and continued to be passed on in the oral tradition. They connect us to Spirit but also to humanity’s resilience, and we can’t forget that. For me, singing these songs was connected to learning to play drums and knowing the history of the drum. In fact, so much of the music that we play, that we grew up with, is part of this lineage.”
Connections like these are what Bolo creates. “Sunshine,” for instance, sets up a danceable groove with the West African harp taking on the role of the bass, while an Indian bamboo flute plays a soulful melody, and Prakasha sings a bhajan taught to him by his teacher, Jai Uttal. “Mahini Mei,” on the other hand, developed out of the band jamming, using instruments from West Africa and the Middle East alongside the drum kit and upright bass, with the addition of a vocal line penned by the late Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré.
“When we recorded those songs, they were first takes,” Fraser remembers. “The spontaneity there is magic. We respond to each other and the music just opens up.”
All three band members have studied and immersed themselves in the music of different regions: West Africa, North Africa, Turkey, India.
“We use instruments that are all connected to the earth in some way,” Prakasha notes. “They’re made with wood, bamboo, animal skin. My drum kit is the youngest instrument in the band. It’s a child of the modern age and I think it connects the Old World to the New.”
It’s music with substance and depth. But that’s simply Bolo living up to its name, which means “sing to the divine” or “speak your truth.”
“We’re not saying stuff we don’t mean,” Sills says. “That’s important to us. Speak less, but let each note come from the soul.”