Antibalas: Who Is This America?

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Dave Segal

Antibalas

Can polyrhythms-no matter how hip-swivelingly funky and relentless-spark revolution? I doubt it, but Brooklyn’s Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra maintains an unshakable belief in the power of making music to shake people’s asses for what its members consider a good cause: To destroy capitalism. (Bet you didn’t know your ass had that much power, eh?) Owing a Third World-sized debt to legendary Nigerian band leader Fela Kuti’s inspirational funkathons of the ’70s, the 15-member Antibalas rides serpentine, uplifting grooves for many mesmerizing minutes, making the group a favorite on the jam-band circuit. The vibrant saxophonists, trumpeter, and trombonist embellish the manically intricate syncopation with (ahem) revolutionary zeal (imagine James Brown’s horn section fueled by Marxism). With all those guitarists, bassists, keyboardists, percussionists and horns, this musical UN generates an equatorial heat that’s as purifying as their late idol’s. Antibalas’ third album, Who Is This America? (Ropeadope), sizzles with the fury of living two more years under America’s worst president. Jazz elements? Try some Miles Davis-like keyboards (cf., “He Loved Him Madly” and “Rated X”), Don Cherry’s triumphant trumpet phrasing and Tito Puente’s slinky, chunky percussion