The grooves on this 2004 reissue are so funkalicious, bubbling with creative juice, fat with horn, thick with percussion, that you almost don’t notice the burn of the protest, the cynicism of the outlook and the smackdown against consumerism and oppression.
Welcome to the world of the Antibalas Afro-Beat Orchestra, a 17-man Brooklyn collective that takes from the mighty pen of the late Nigerian Afro-Beat originator and political activist Fela Kuti to reimagine, reconstruct and recreate his fire, his anger, his resolve and, most importantly, the art form he invented. Afro-Beat, in all its wild abandon.
Fela Kuti, who died of AIDS in 1997, never stopped protesting his country’s horrible civil rights abuses. His music has a dignity, a dance-ability and a duality of nature: deadly serious rants that you could shake your ass to. Antibalas takes that premise to the utmost degree on Who Is This America? It’s a modern Afro-Beat classic conceived in a post-9/11 New York and filled with righteous indignation, spectacular fatback grooves complete with slide-pump trombone, honking saxophones, ever-present percolatin’ congas and timbales and, of course, political shout-outs that demand your attention.
Antibalas currently serves as the house band for Fela! at the Eugene O’Neill Theater in Manhattan. Many of Fela Kuti’s albums from the ‘70s and ‘80s are also being re-released.