ANTIBALAS / “Sister”
Antibalas is a New York City-based, afro-beat ensemble that is relentlessly creative musically and relentlessly committed to progressive politics. You won’t be hearing many of their songs on radio. They take their sound direction from Fela Kuti but they are not a cover band. On their website, their Antibalas FAQ page describes the band:
Martin Perna assembled the first formation of Antibalas with seven people for a performance at St. Nick’s Pub in Harlem on May 26, 1998 performing entirely original material and one Ethiopian funk tune. Over the next year, the membership evolved and grew to 13 people, including Gabriel Roth, Don Bonus, Fernando Velez and other musicians from the now-defunct Desco Records stable, and musicians from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood. The group played almost exclusively non-commercial spaces like lofts, benefits, block parties, museums, and community markets before entering the nightclubs of downtown Manhattan.The two cuts featured here are from their third album, Who Is This America? They both demonstrate the excitingly high level of Antibalas musicianship. “Indictment” is a tightly wound, kaleidoscope of stabbing horns over a rapid-fire rhythm. Although it’s exactly the kind of song one would expect from a “political” band, “Indictment” is nevertheless an exciting dance number as well. “Sister” on the other hand is a 20-minute workout that builds slowly and includes a humorous but deadly serious critique of the macho–mentality. It is one of those mid-tempo grooves that lulls one into a trance-dance state and at the same includes explosive lyrics. Brilliant. Enjoy. —Kalamu ya Salaam Bulletproof Yeah, Antibalas is baaaad. Sometimes, when I have my computer on random and one of their tunes comes on, it takes me a minute or two to figure out that it’s not Fela. Now, that’s high praise. I read somewhere that their name means “bulletproof” in Spanish. The Bulletproof Afrobeat Orchestra. I like that. Let me add in a track that kind of bridges the gap between this post and this week’s Cover. It’s an Antibalas track from their 2001 release Liberation Afrobeat Vol. 1. They call it “N.E.S.T.A. (Never Ever Submit To Authority).” It sounds a lot like Fela, but it’s actually a tribute to Roberta Nesta Marley. Check it out. —Mtume ya Salaam
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