October 19, 2010

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra Talkatif

Liberation Afro Beat Vol. 1 was an incredible debut for Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, as the Brooklyn collective introduced themselves to the world with a firestorm of political indignation, hi-octane percussion, blaring horns and irresistible basslines. When their sophomore effort Talkatif rolled around in 2002, they managed to nudge every aspect to a higher level, a hugely impressive feat given that Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra - TalkatifLiberation Afro Beat not only came out less than one year earlier, but was also one of 2001’s very best albums. Antibalas seemed to bring renewed focus and professionalism to this release, and the result was an album significantly leaner, more easily digestible and certainly more addictive than its predecessor, with a marginally decreased vocal component (perhaps the only thing one could miss in the transition between albums, although they’re far from absent) and a heavy focus on urgent melodies and unshakeable long-form grooves. It’s definitely better suited to heavy-rotation listening than the debut, as everything feels that little bit tighter, more musically accomplished and more mature. The bustling “Gabe’s New Joint” and the righteous “Talkatif” open the album, and are in my opinion its two best tracks, but this is definitely one of those releases where weak points are simply nowhere to be found. Talkatif ramps up the funk and shakes you right down to your bones – keeping still while it’s playing, even for a few moments, is quite simply out of the question.




September 23, 2010

Akóya Afrobeat EnsemblePresident Dey Pass

When people think about afro-beat a handful of things spring to mind – speedy percussion, horns, “tribal” motifs, bursts of energy, political indignation, spoken word sections stretched over longform grooves, race relations, Fela and so on. There’s one keyword that I think is the most important of all – excitement. In amongst all of the topical aspects and funky Akóya Afrobeat Ensemble - President Dey Passmusicianship of afro-beat, the one most crucial thing it needs to do above all else is get you excited. It needs to motivate you to care, to dance, to really feel it, because when you’re sporting 13 minute tracks, having your listeners feel it is absolutely essential. Featuring musicians from countries all around the world, and centred around experienced band-leader Kaleta, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble are relatively new to the modern afro-beat scene, but their second album, 2008’s President Dey Pass, has already left an immense impact on me. All those elements I mentioned are here in abundance, and the excitement level? Hell, these guys are absolutely riveting. With those long track-runtimes regularly stretching past the ten-minute mark, this is music that you can get lost in, forcing you to forget where you are and what you’re doing as those irrepressible grooves and passionate, killer vocals grab hold of your focus (and your feet) and simply refuse to let go. “Wahala” makes for an awesome closer, while the forty minute run consisting of “Fela Dey”, “Je Je L’Aiye” and “B.F.B.F. Panama” is so good that it rivals the best work of Antibalas.

(not from this album)