Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

Who Is This America? (Ropeadope)

Antibalas's latest album, Who Is This America?, finds this seventeen-piece ensemble from Brooklyn making lemonade out of the bitterest lemons, whether it's misogynistic urban culture or stilted U.S. foreign policy. While a bit more overtly political than 2002's Talkatif, Antibalas offers a bright, danceable sound, even at its most impassioned (such as creating mock gunfire aimed at Rumsfeld and Rice on "Indictment"), that's given backbone by a tight horn section and two talented conga players.

The album closes powerfully with the nineteen-minute "Sister," where singer Abraham "Duke" Amayo apologizes to women for his past chauvinism. "What kinda brother I am if I check my sister like dog?" he asks. "What kinda brother I am if I hunt my sister like food?" His reasoning is so logical that it makes the alternative look barbaric.

It's hard to imagine that Fela Kuti, the late Nigerian pioneer of the dynamic Afrobeat sound that inspired the formation of Antibalas (and a man of many wives), would write a feminist power anthem. But "Sister" is one of the most elegant ways that the band proves it is not only an extension of a strong musical lineage, but capable of transcending that history with its own heartfelt expression. -- Tamara Palmer

 
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