Thursday, January 26, 2006

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra's Liberation Afrobeat Vol. 1

I'm all for pastiche, but sometimes you gotta wonder: when does paying homage flow over into ripping off?

The first time I saw Antibalas, I wasn't overly sold. A group of 9-15 (thankfully not in an Arcade Fire kinda way) NYC folk playing Fela Kuti funk jams might be pretty novel in a place like Calgary, but seeing neo-hippies do that fucked up fairy dance (unfortunately) is not. To be a good sport, I picked up Liberation Afrobeat to give 'em a fair chance...I'm still not overly sold.

I can respect the group for keeping afrobeat alive, for keeping the music of Fela Kuti alive, but why wouldn't I just put on some Fela albums and groove out on "Expensive Shit" or "Water No Get Enemy" instead? Though Antibalas have certainly done their homework, there's little new that Antibalas has brought to the table with Liberation Afrobeat. If anything, Antibalas doesn't even come close to having as much tension or urgency to their music as Fela did (nor as interesting/fucked up a life), and I can't help but think this is purely for those kids that overdose on patchouli oil and herbal teas.

Instead, then, check out Red Hot and Riot, the Red Hot's tribute to Fela. Instead of the cut and paste version of Fela that Antibalas undoubtedly excels at, Red Hot and Riot updates the sound, with people like Mixmaster Mike, D'Angelo, the Blackalicious guys and Jorge Ben on board. What results is something infinitely more interesting, and infinitely more innovative. Pastiche can be fine if kept in check, but originality will always be better.

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