In all the talk about how Brooklyn
bands are shaking up American music culture, Antibalas gets bypassed. Maybe
that’s because the collective’s American Soul Stew of Afrobeat, jazz, funk,
salsa, dub and avant-garde is seen as fundamentally deliriously ecstatic,
propulsively polyrhythmic, horn-bellowing live music. But Antibalas members
also helped inspire and create FELA!, the smash Broadway musical that is bringing Afrobeat to mainstream America.
That’s pretty profound when you stop to think about it and
Ropeadope, the label that originally released Antibalas’ breakthrough Who Is This America? in 2004, has. The
special edition reissue of America? showcases how Antibalas can construct long songs, building forward in rhythmic
complexity as bass, guitar, horn solos, drums and slamming super-heavy organ
intertwine and drive forward. Lyrics can be political (the title song, the
feminist “Sister”), but take a backseat to the heated instrumental workouts.
Newly added track “Money Talks” flows ominously from groaning and chattering
horns and chilling discordant piano into an explosivity. Antibalas has quietly
but loudly helped change American arts.
Back Africa,” “Money Talks” STEVEN ROSEN