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Ray Lugo is a songwriter, producer and DJ from New York City and is the leader and singer of Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra and Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers.
Lugo grew up on the streets of New York's Lower East Side, where he was exposed from an early age to the early Hip Hop and hardcore punk scenes that informed the strong DIY ethic for which he is known. As a teen he gravitated to the vibrant East Village music and art scene of the late 80's, eventually managing hardcore group Warzone while still in his teens under the mentorship of bands such as Bad Brains and Agnostic Front.
In the mid-1990's Lugo opened Underhanded Studios on Ludlow Street in new York. Underhanded became the starting point for popular Latin Ska group King Chango, as Lugo produced and co-wrote a number of the group's initial recordings prior to their signing to David Byrne's Luaka Bop Records, and for the emerging deep funk scene, as the nascent Desco Records recorded a number of their first releases at Underhanded, prior to mutating into Daptone Records.
Lugo formed the Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra in 2001 after becoming intrigued by the music of Fela Kuti and by groups like Daktaris and Antibalas, groups comprised of ex-King Chango members and Desco records associates.
In October 2009, Lugo launched a new project dubbed Ray Lugo's L.E.S. Express which features some of Brazil's newest vocal talents as well as Australian deep funk singer Roxie Ray.
In June 2011, Lugo released the debut album, "Mi Watusi", from his new project, Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers, on acclaimed UK label Freestyle Records.
"We Walk Around Like This", Lugo's first solo album is out now on Jazz & Milk Records.
Kokolo, also known as the Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra, is an American Afrobeat band from the Lower East Side of New York City, formed in 2001.
Along with The Daktaris and Antibalas, they form part of the early New York Afrobeat scene that ignited the genre’s current global revival.
The band's name, (pronounced kohːkohːloh), was taken from a 1970's term used in Spanish Harlem and parts of the Caribbean, often as a pejorative, to describe Latinos of African descent who were fans of Afro music. Kokolo aimed to invert the negative connotation of the term through their music.
==History: From Punk to Afrofunk==
===Fuss And Fight===
Prior to founding Kokolo, Lugo’s musical background was rooted in New York’s downtown hardcore punk and rock scenes, associating with groups such as Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Gorilla Biscuits, Jawbreaker, Youth Of Today, Leeway and Warzone. Warzone’s lead singer, Raymond “Raybeez” Barbieri was a close personal friend of Lugo and an early mentor on the ins-and-outs of independent music, inspiring the DIY ethic that would become a key characteristic of Kokolo.
By the summer of 1995, Lugo ran Underhanded Studios, a recording facility on Ludlow Street, which he shared with Mark Anthony Thompson (Chocolate Genius), Sim Cain (Rollins Band) and Yuka Honda (Cibo Matto/Sean Lennon). While at Underhanded, Lugo befriended Gabe Roth and Phillip Lehman, who soon recorded the first albums for Desco Records at Underhanded and who would go on to release the Daktaris album, which spearheaded the Afrobeat revival in New York. Also during this time, while producing King Chango’s debut recordings, Lugo recruited Martin Perna and Mike Wagner as the group’s horn section. Perna and Wagner would go on to form Antibalas, along with percussionist Fernando Velez (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), another former King Chango alumni.
Lugo’s search for a new musical direction let him to form Kokolo in the spring of 2001, enthused by the template of his friends in Antibalas as well as by the music of Fela Kuti, James Brown and the Fania All-Stars and the by live power of groups like Bad Brains, and Mano Negra.
Initially formed as a “traditional” Afrobeat ensemble, the group consisted of 14 members from various parts of the world, and as a result of a revolving door of musicians coming in and out of the group, the initial months proved frustrating at tightening up the band as a live unit. During this time Lugo met English Trombonist Chris Morrow, the only other original member currently in the group.
In the summer of 2001, Lugo turned to Gabe Roth to produce Kokolo’s debut album “Fuss And Fight”, so called because Lugo wanted to denote the friction and internal bickering going on within the group at that time. Recorded at Daptone Studios in Brooklyn, and featuring some of the musicians in Antibalas and released on the UK Label AfroKings, “Fuss And Fight” quickly gained the band a following, in particular with European audiences, due in part to the relative novelty of the genre, but also due to their high-energy performances and undeniable talent, and the band soon toured the UK for the first time. Prior to this maiden tour and a result of internal disagreements, most of the initial group left to form the Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble.
Finding themselves stuck with an upcoming tour and no band, Roth came to the rescue by connecting Lugo and Morrow with long time collaborator and former Fela Kuti/Manu DiBango drummer Jojo Kuo, enabling them to carry on with the tour.
===More Consideration ===
Initially panned by critics, “Fuss And Fight” drew its share of negative, or at the very least, suspicious, press upon its release. Long accustomed to Fela-esque prototypes, purists found the Kokolo's radical take on Afrobeat not to their liking. Although at first stung by the lukewarm response, Lugo quickly set off to write the band’s second album during a stay in Amsterdam in 2003, noting only the criticisms from a selected number of writers who’s opinion he respected, more inspired to solidify an original sound for the group.
The result was the critically acclaimed “More Consideration”, which featured more complex orchestrations and sophisticated compositions. The album benefited from the participation of players such as Charlie Hunter, Gabe Roth (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), Mike Weitman (Project Logic), Jojo Kuo (Fela Kuti/Manu DiBango), Gina Ferrera (Gina Ferrera & The Philadelphia Gyil Fusion Project) and Marcos Garcia (Antibalas/Chico Mann) and was released by London taste-maker Adrian Gibson’s Freestyle imprint in 2004.
The enthusiastic response to “More Consideration” allowed Kokolo to reach a broader audience and to perform on some of the world’s premier stages, from the main stage of The Montreal International Jazz Festival, The Glastonbury Festival and scores of others around the world, where they shared the spotlight with acts ranging from Roots Manuva, Manu DiBango, Taj Mahal, Isaac Hayes, Zap Mama and Gilles Peterson to Chic, Pete Rock, The Itals, Bloodhound Gang, Roy Ayers and Seun Kuti & Egypt 80.
Also during this time, the group began to experiment with remixes of their original songs, something which some found somewhat taboo, but was viewed by the band as another vehicle with which to reach listeners. To date Kokolo has been remixed by Faze Action, BeatFanatic, Lack Of Afro, Diesler and many others.
===Love International ===
Kokolo's third album, "Love International" continued to expand the group's sound as Lugo incorporated elements of Hip Hop, Dancehall and a more pronounced Latin influence throughout the songs. The group's "Afro" version of The Clash's "The Magnificent Seven", a nod to one of Lugo's musical heroes, was well received by DJ's around the world and featured Jamaican dancehall artist Joe Daddz on lead vocals.
"Love International", released in July 2007 on Freestyle Records, confirmed that Kokolo possessed "Our Own Thing", as one the album's more driving songs proclaimed, and helped the band tour a number of new countries as a result, and were the first group to bring live Afrobeat to countries such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania, among others.
===Heavy Hustling ===
The band's fourth studio album, "Heavy Hustling", found them meshing Fela Kuti poly-rhythms and Fania All-Star cadence into a number of James Brown classics, with Lugo providing original vocals, turning classics like "Soul Power" into tongue-in-cheek come ons through lyrical plays on sexual themes and a marked emphasis on West-African Afrofunk.
“I thought it would be interesting to make explicit the implicit connection that exists between Nigerian Afrobeat and American Funk and explore the musical dialogue that took place across the Atlantic during that golden era, a dialogue that also included the New York Latin sound, which was also highly regarded and influential in Africa at the time“, states Lugo.
"Heavy Hustling" was released on the Milan-based Record Kicks label in February, 2009 and the band soon followed its release with its most extensive tour schedule to date.
==Style and influences==
Originally conceived as a traditional Afrobeat group, Kokolo quickly developed a far spikier sound, often played faster and more emphatically than many of their contemporaries. They have also proven adept at broadening their sound by incorporating influences from a variety of other genres. Although Kokolo sing in English primarily, they have released several numbers sung in Spanish language|Spanish and Portuguese.
Lugo's songwriting approach is largely informed by punk, rock and reggae, and contrary to many Afrobeat groups' reliance on more "Jazzy" instrumentals, Kokolo's songs feature re-occurring vocal choruses, which are designed to engage and energize audiences at live shows.
Their live performances also vary drastically from that of their peers, as Kokolo's shows are more frenzied and akin to rock concerts, another indication of the influence of groups like Bad Brains and The Clash on the group.
Since forming, they have evolved into a prolific recording machine, with over 50 releases on their discography and features in scores of notable international compilations, alongside artists like Femi Kuti, Ska Cubano, Tony Allen, U-Roy, Caetano Veloso, Masters At Work, Quantic, Salif Keita, Gerardo Frisina, Baaba Mal, Jazztronik, Zero 7, Afro Celt Sound System, Joe Bataan, Common, The Orb, Eric B & Rakim and many more.
Kokolo are also notable as practitioners of the Simple Living lifestyle, and followers of the writings of J. Krishnamurti, who's concepts heavily influenced the lyrics on the band's second album, "More Consideration", as exemplified by the maxim found on their album jackets: "Live More, Consume Less.. With More Joy and Less Stress". They have donated songs, performed and raised funds on behalf of scores of projects ranging from Youth empowerment organizations to AIDS relief groups and environmental causes.
RAY LUGO DISCOGRAPHY:
Ray Lugo: We Walk Around Like This (Jazz & Milk 2012)
Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers: Mi Watusi (Freestyle 2011)
KOKOLO: Heavy Hustling (Record Kicks – 2009)
KOKOLO: Love International (Freestyle - 2007)
KOKOLO: More Consideration (Freestyle - 2004)
KOKOLO AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA: Fuss And Fight (Afrokings - 2002)
Militant: Renegade Trinity (Underhanded – 1996)
12" Singles | E.P.'s:
Ray Lugo: Bahia Love EP (Jazz & Milk - 2012)
KOKOLO: The Magnificent Seven/Uptown Felaz EP (Shiftin Gears - 2009)
KOKOLO: Nueva York (Malena's Nuyorican Mix) (Freestyle - 2008)
KOKOLO: Balkan Beat Box Split EP (Sol Selectas - 2008)
KOKOLO: Sabroso (Freestyle - 2005)
KOKOLO: Roy Davis Jr. Split EP (Jamayka - 2005)
KOKOLO: More Consideration EP (Freestyle - 2005)
KOKOLO: Mister Sinister (Jamayka - 2004)
KOKOLO: Root To The Fruit (Freestyle - 2004)
Ice Cream headache: Ice Cream Headache (Underhanded – 1995)
Ray Lugo &The Boogaloo Destroyers: Swingy Boogaloo (Freestyle 2011)
Ray Lugo's L.E.S. Express: Love Me Good (Record Kicks 2010)
Ray Lugo's L.E.S. Express: I Dream Of Bahia (Record Kicks 2009)
KOKOLO: Afrika Man (Record Kicks – 2009)
KOKOLO: Soul Power (Record Kicks – 2008)
KOKOLO AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA: Girls On Film (Record Kicks - 2008)
KOKOLO: The Magnificent Seven (VampiSoul - 2008)
KOKOLO: The Way Up (Tramp - 2007)
KOKOLO: Our Own Thing (Freestyle - 2007)
KOKOLO: Heaven (AfroKats - 2007)
KOKOLO: Each One Teach One (AfroKats - 2006)
KOKOLO AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA: Donkey (Afrokings - 2002)
Militant: Come In Peace (Underhanded – 1996)
Twin Barrels Burning: Bleed On (Dutch East India – 1992)
AuditorsDOmination -Viejos Amigos (Ray Lugo Remix) (Timewarp 2012)
I Dream Of Bahia (Dusty & Bartellow Remix) (Jazz & Milk 2012)
Love Me Good (Simbad Remix) (Jazz & Milk 2012)
Ray Lugo &The Boogaloo Destroyers: Swingy Boogaloo (Ian Toole Tropical Edit) (Freestyle 2011)
The Liberators: "Rags To Riches Ft. Jojo Kuo" (Ray Lugo Remix) - (Record Kicks -2011)
Brownout: "Ayer y Hoy" (Ray Lugo Remix) - (Six Degrees -2010)
Ray Harris & The Fusion Experience: "Scaramunga" (Ray Lugo Remix) - (Record Kicks -2010)
Afrika Man (Diesler Remix) (Record Kicks - 2009)
Soul Power (Lack Of Afro Remix) (Record Kicks - 2008)
Our Own Thing (Diesler Remix) (Freestyle - 2008)
Sabroso (Sabo Remix) (Sol Selectas - 2007)
Heaven (Ando Kal Remix) (AfroKats – 2007)
Each One Teach One (White Mike Remix) (AfroKats – 2006)
Mister Sinister (Word Of Mouth Remix) (Jamayka - 2005)
Mama Don’t Want No Gun (BeatFanatic Remix) (Freestyle - 2005)
Late Night Closed Eyes (White Mike Remix) (Freestyle - 2004)
Candela (Ritchie Pitch Remix) (Freestyle - 2004)
Mister Sinister (Faze Action Remix) (Jamayka - 2004)
V.A. 10th Anniversary (Record Kicks -2013)
V.A. Fiesta Latina (X5-2013)
V.A. Globaltronica (X5-2012)
V.A. Club Anthems (Vanilla-2012)
V.A. Jazzy Lounge (Wagram-2012)
V.A. Afro Club Night 2 (Lola's World-2012)
V.A. Lounge Anthology (Wagram-2012)
V.A. City Lounge 9 (Wagram – 2012)
V.A. Sounds From The Soul Underground (Freestyle – 2012)
V.A. Plaintaste Of Funk (Piola Libri – 2011)
V.A. Mo' Record Kicks Vol. 2 (Record Kicks – 2011)
V.A. Contemporary Afrobeat (Tramp – 2011)
V.A. Soul Shaker Vol. 7 (Record Kicks – 2010)
V.A. Dancers Masterpiece (P-Vine – 2010
V.A. City Lounge 7 (Wagram – 2010)
V.A. Deep Funk Theory Vol. 3 (La Suite – 2010)
V.A. Mo' Record Kicks (Record Kicks – 2010)
V.A. Soul Shaker Vol. 6 (Record Kicks – 2009)
V.A. H2G Japan 6 (H2G – 2009)
V.A. Power Up The Planet (Planetwize - 2009)
V.A. Funk Aid For Africa (Dubspot - 2009)
V.A. Republica Afrobeat 3 (Love Monk - 2009)
V.A. Balearic Beach Sessions (Cool Pool - 2009)
V.A. Afrobeat Club (Union Square - 2009)
V.A. Rough Guide To Afrobeat Revival (WMN - 2009)
V.A. Soul Shaker Vol. 5 (Record Kicks – 2008)
V.A. Funkanova (Prominence – 2008)
V.A. Collected Singles Vol. 5 (Freestyle – 2008)
V.A. Collected Singles Vol. 2 (Freestyle – 2008)
V.A. Collected Singles Vol. 1 (Freestyle – 2008)
V.A. Nu Afro (Wagram – 2007)
V.A. Soul Shaker Vol. 4 (Record Kicks – 2007)
V.A. The Afro Sound Of House (Traxsource – 2007)
V.A. Timeless Anthems (Jetstar – 2006)
V.A. Feel The Beat: Afrofunk (Big Sur – 2006)
V.A. Freestyle Remixed (Freestyle – 2006)
V.A. Loft Party (Kinky Sweet – 2006)
V.A. Beginners Guide To Afro Lounge (Nascente – 2006)
V.A. Afrique C’est Chic Box Set (Kinky Sweet – 2005)
V.A. Even Nice Girls (Public Release – 2005)
V.A. Frequent Flyer Mile High (Kinky Sweet – 2005)
V.A. Afrique C’est Chic 3 (Slip ‘N Slide - 2005)
V.A. Future World Funk…On The Run (Ether - 2005)
V.A. House Afrika (House Afrika - 2004)
V.A. Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (Modiba - 2004)
V.A. One Love Vol. 1 (Pure Hemp - 2004)
V.A. African Xpress (Shakti/Virgin - 2003)
V.A. Big Daddy Volume 3: The Showstopper (Big Daddy - 2002)
V.A. Live From WFMU (WFMU - 2002)
V.A. Ox Compilation 27 (OX Fanzine – 1997)
V.A. 100% Latin Ska (Moon Ska – 1995)
V.A. New York City Hardcore (Revelation – 1987)