Afrobeat music is again in the zeitgeist as Fela! reverberates through the city after a successful run on Broadway. Although some might say Afrobeat music is back, for members of Brooklyn-based Antibalas, it never left. Since 1998, Antibalas has been a mirror image of the music it performs – diverse, unapologetic, relentless, and spiritual. The group features African, Asian, Caucasian, and Latin musicians with ages ranging from 21 to 54 and playing music touching on social awareness while producing a CDC-quarantined amount of infectious dance music. You may not have heard of Antibalas before, but you have probably heard their music as many have performed in the Dap Kings (Antibalas is a Daptone Records artist) or with The Roots, Iron and Wine, and TV on the Radio. Much of the success of Fela! must be attributed to members of Antibalas who made up majority of the pit band for live performances. Antibalas is often the band behind the scenes, but this album takes them front and center with music designed to start an impromptu dance party.
New York City’s Zuccotti Park was a battleground during the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the first song “Dirty Money” could be an anthem for the 99%. The song tells two stories of a man meeting his ultimate fate by either being weighed down by money or by using money as a rope which eventually snaps. Despite the Sesame Street aesthetics, the music video has an underlying social ethos.
This album isn’t funky, because funky is too shallow of an adjective to describe this album. Day old milk is funky – this album is Limburger cheese sitting outside in August. This album is a musical swamp that makes you sweat just by listening. Trumpets burst like cannons while drums bomb rhythms making this a perfect late summer album as we fight off the weight of another NYC summer.
Come see Antibalas on Saturday, August 18th at Williamsburg Park for free.