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.
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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