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Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra: Liberation Afrobeat Vol.1. Distributed by Ninja Tune.

Antibalas, a Brooklyn-based, 14-piece cooperative band, aims to make original, revolutionary Afrobeat music in the spirit of "chief priest" Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Nigeria's "black president" who fused highlife, jazz, funk and Afro-Cuban dance music with attacks on neo-colonialism, corruption and oppression. In this, Antibalas ("bulletproof" or, in literal spanish, "anti-bullets") unquestionably succeeds. The band sticks closely to Fela's original sound, even more so than Fela's own son Femi, whose acclaimed 1998 disc Shoki Shoki helped sparked an Afrobeat renaissance. Antibalas' extended, pulsating, trance-inducing grooves are pure Fela. The band also follows closely in his political footsteps, in its own words, "attacking the dehumanizing capitalist system and inciting insurrection in English, Yoruba and Spanish." The track "World War IV," for example, denounces the efforts of "war criminals" Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright to starve Iraqis and Cubans, Mexico's president's attempts to starve Mayas in Chiap as, and the NYPD's war on black men with a wallet in their hand.

Since many of the tunes don't have lyrics, the band's politics come across more clearly in the liner notes than the music. Here's a sample: "Antibalas is more than just a band. It aims to be a movement in an era where the pursuit of money and fame has ruined the souls and work of our fellow humans." "Antibalas is trying to lead by example as a functioning cooperative entity. We encourage you to try to do the same, be it as a musical group, food coop. squat, intentional community, credit union, etc." "We encourage you to expand your mind and your conceptions of how the world can be.... We let de-humanising, corrupt institutions like governments, armies and banks dictate how we live and die. We try to find joy and fulfilment in the excrement of these institutions: TV, fashion, professional sports, all of which disempower us." "Try to see beyond that. Dare to be free!..."

The band performs regularly at New York City clubs and political benefits for groups like the Bertold Brecht Forum, the New York Zapatistas, the Green Party, and Rainforest Relief. Antibalas played at the Montreal Jazz festival on July 1 and, with Femi Kuti, on July 2. Check their website,, complete with MP3 sound dips, info on future concert dates, and pictures from the Ottawa tulip festival.

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Author:Hayden, Anders
Publication:Canadian Dimension
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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