Antibalas at Lincoln Hall | Concert preview
Afrobeat disciples carry on Fela Kuti’s legacy.
When members of Antibalas first immersed themselves in the Afrobeat idiom, it’s unlikely they ever expected Fela Kuti’s name to be familiar to Broadway audiences. But the Brooklyn troupe deserves some of the credit: Several members performed in Fela!, Bill T. Jones’s musical based on the Nigerian firebrand’s life, and two pieces of the band’s robust horn section—Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean—were key players.
The success of the Tony-winning production, staged earlier this year at the Oriental Theatre, has in effect legitimized Afrobeat, which Kuti used as a potent agitprop vehicle to deliver his message of social and economic injustice. That’s what resonated through most of Kuti’s politically charged, posterior-moving jazz-funk odysseys, and a similar one runs through Antibalas’ new eponymous LP.
The disc, issued on Daptone and recorded at that label’s House of Soul, wouldn’t sound out of place amidst Kuti’s endless discography—“Dirty Money,” with its light-footed trot, and the deep grooves underpinning “Him Belly No Go Sweet.” Fronted by singer and Lagos native Abraham Amayo, these disciples are doing as much as anyone (including Kuti’s sons Femi and Seun) to carry the mantle. But it’s the taut horn blasts, organ stabs and steadfast shekere pulse that convince live. Even better, unlike at the Oriental Theatre, there’s no obligation to remain seated when the music demands we rise.