Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
Antibalas is an afrobeat juggernaut. The thirteen-member strong orchestra overwhelms the stage with monstrous horns and bass, polyrhythmic beats and funky breaks, and furious lyrics in English, Yoruba and Spanish. The live show is equal parts sweat-drenched bacchanalia and political rally. “Their frequent Afrobeat parties get off on the good foot and stay there for hours,” exclaims the Village Voice.
Since 1998, the Brooklyn-based cooperative (“anti-bullets” or “bulletproof” in Spanish) has carried the Afrobeat torch ignited by the late Nigerian singer and activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Their sound combines highlife, jazz, funk, and traditional African rhythms informed with unabashed political conviction. The band has spread its four-alarm Afrobeat inferno to festivals and world-class venues in over fifteen countries.
Antibalas has opened for James Brown, No Doubt, Wyclef Jean, Trey Anastasio and more. They have appeared at many of rock’s best-known venues: Irving Plaza in New York, the Fillmore in San Francisco, and the Metro in Chicago. They stunned jazz audiences at festivals from Montreal to Montreux to Vancouver to Istanbul. They rocked audiences at multi-genre festivals such as Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, England’s Big Chill and Denmark’s Roskilde as well as inmates at New York’s Rikers Island Prison. In October 2003, they stole the show at the Womex World Music Expo in Seville as the only group to represent all of North America.
Antibalas’ broad cultural and musical background mirrors the diversity of their New York home. Members trace their family roots to Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Their musical pedigree is equally broad, encompassing jazz, funk, dub, improvised music, and traditional drumming from Cuba and West Africa.
The band began its career with a bang, starting the popular “Africalia!” concert series dedicated to celebrating Afrobeat, funk, and other diasporic music. The event, which developed a cult following, ran weekly for eighteen months until a police raid force the club to close in April 2001.
Antibalas’ first two albums, “Liberation Afrobeat Vol. 1,” (2001) and “Talkatif” (2002) appeared on the UK-based Ninjatune label. Canada’s Exclaim! praised Talkatif’s “lustrous horns, up-front organ, locked down grooves and wicked percussion.” Later, Antibalas collaborated with Baaba Maal and Taj Mahal on “Red Hot & Riot” (MCA), a tribute to Fela intended to raise money for the African AIDS epidemic. The Antibalas horn section has been featured on records such as Medeski. Martin and Wood’s “Uninvisible.” (Blue Note) as well as sessions with Grammy-winning producer Charlie Dos Santos (Los Van Van, Barbarito Torres). Antibalas has appeared on numerous afrofunk compilations alongside giants of African music such as Fela, Hugh Masakela, and Manu Dibango. Their 2003 remake of the salsa classic “Che Che Cole” (Daptone) continues to be an international dancefloor killer and dj favorite.
Antibalas has received tremendous support from public and college radio in the US, Canada, and the UK, with live interviews and performances on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “World Café,” and “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” as well as frequent airplay from the BBC’s Gilles Peterson.
Despite years of relentless touring, the band’s New York roots remain strong. They help maintain a cooperative recording/rehearsal space in Bushwick, Brooklyn. They have lent their support to the Bertolt Brecht forum, CHARAS/El Bohio, New York Zapatistas, Paper Tiger TV, More Gardens Coalition, Rainforest Relief and other progressive and radical organizations, and appear at block parties and parks from the Bronx to 127th street in Harlem to Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
The public eagerly anticipates the June 2004 release of “Who is the America?” (ropeadope), the culmination of two years of intense touring, composing, and arranging. Produced and mixed by Antibalas, the record shows marked development in the group’s lyrical message. Antibalas is slated to tour vigorously during the summer of 2004 with appearances at major festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury, and a weeklong residency at Berlin’s Heimatklaenge Festival and through the autumn supporting their latest release.
Source: Antibalas Website
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