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Home » 5 - Fall 07, MUSIC, NEWS, POP CULTURE

Afrobeat Melody – Antibalas

Submitted by on 4 Jun 2008 – 1:26 PM Comments

They come from Bushwick, Brooklyn, but their sound is pure Nigeria circa 1960. This makes sense, considering Antibalas – whose name means “bulletproof” in Spanish – uses Afrobeat as the template for their diverse world sound. For those of you not familiar with Afrobeat, here’s a quick rundown: A really cool Nigerian dude named Fela Kuti coined the term “Afrobeat” in the 1960s after having experimented with a bevy of musical styles, including jazz, funk, African percussion, and Yoruba music. Given the state of politics and government in Africa at the time, Kuti used music as a way of communicating outrage toward the government, which led to a sound that was both danceable and confrontational. Afrobeat is now characterized by large bands, high-energy sets heavy with improvisation, and polyrhythmic percussion much like, well, Antibalas. It makes sense, then, that Antibalas fully employ the Afrobeat sound into their universal musical cauldron of jazz, Latin, classical and funk.

Founded in 1998 by Martin Perna as Conjunta Antibalas, the group took shape over the next two years, collecting members along the way and writing enough original compositions to play at live shows. The now eleven-member band released their first album, Liberation Afrobeat Vol. 1 in 2000. That summer also saw the group touring England twice, as well as playing various gigs throughout NYC. Talkatif was released in 2002, and 2004 saw the release of their third album, Who Is This America? It wasn’t until 2007 that Antibalas joined forces with Anti Records, who plays host to such musical heavyweights as Tom Waits and Neko Case, to release their fourth album, Security. Produced by John McEntire (a.k.a.Tortoise, Stereolab, Tom Ze), Security was recorded over the span of a month, alongside McEntire in his Chicago studio. Constructing a world all their own, Antibalas recorded some of their best work to date on Security. From the 1970s-inspired, gritty guitar opening “Filibuster XXX” to the Yo La Tengo reminiscent horns of “i.c.e.” Antibalas manages to not only genre-hop but also span the map stylistically, all the while still sounding distinctively them. It’s no wonder then, that they have developed such a devoted fan base over the past 10 years. Antibalas has toured 23 countries, ranging from Cuba to Japan, Turkey to Portugal, as well as all over Europe and the United States, and continues to wow audiences with their intense live shows.

Bruce Scott

First published in movmnt magazine “Got Fame?” Issue – Fall 2007

antibalas.com
myspace.com/antibalas