Ever since Vampire Weekend’s debut, indie pop has opened the floodgates to an infusion of various forms of African music. In the Bay Area, tUnE-yArDs may be the highest-profile practitioner of this hybrid, but a less-jagged, more soulful approach comes via Oakland’s Bells Atlas. Combining the looping effects so expertly mastered by tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus with soulful vocals reminiscent of Meshell Ndegeocello, Bells Atlas frontwoman Sandra Lawson-Ndu soars atop a rhythmic stew of vibes, bass and guitar. Imagine if Cal Tjader and Ali Farka Touré sat in on a Dirty Projectors cover of a Ghanian highlife track, and you’re in the ballpark.

To see Bells Atlas live is to see creativity unfold in real time, and it helps that their songs are innately catchy. This week they’re at the Rickshaw Stop, but don’t miss them for free in Union Square on Sept. 17, and then, on Sept. 20, at the Great American Music Hall opening for—hey, look at that!—Meshell Ndegeocello.

Author

Gabe Meline

Gabe Meline is KQED Arts' Music Editor & Curator. He lives with his wife, his daughter, a 1964 Volvo and too many records in his hometown of Santa Rosa, CA. Find him on Twitter at @gmeline.

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