Few bands no that fact better than Antibalas, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based group that is in the midst of a tour in support of their latest album, Where the Gods Are in Peace, and play the Sweetwater Music Hall on October 25.
The band is made up of 12 musicians, a coalition that gives them a massive, percussion-driven sound. It can also make splitting the check – or even squeezing onto a stage – more complicated than usual.
Organizing a recording session is likely a bit more of a scheduling nightmare, as each of the 12 members are steeped in the New York City music scene and each have one or more side projects that warrant their musical attention. Where the Gods Are in Peace is the band’s first record in five years and only their second in the past decade, but it comes at a time when their unique, potent voice has plenty of material from which to draw inspiration.
Founded in 1998, Antibalas was the forefather of the legions of bands that sought to build on the foundation laid by the late Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti. Over the past nearly two decades, Antibalas has infused Kuti’s Afrobeat sound with their own brand of funk and jazz, and plenty of commentary on American and global politics.
In the years prior to and during the Iraq War, the band didn’t mince words, creating the songs “War Is a Crime,” and “Indictment,” the latter of which imagined a war crimes trial for those directly involved in making the case for the war, mentioning each by name and often stretching live renditions of the song to the 20-minute mark.
Where the Gods Are in Peace takes a step back from immediate current events, condemning on “Gold Rush” the violent displacement of Native American tribes. “The world we live in is built on stolen land, stolen resources, and borrowed time,” the group explains on its facebook page. “This song is an acknowledgement of that history, as well as a conversation with the present moment we live in, and the new types of gold rushes that create their booms and inevitable busts. The song asks the question, ‘Where did we go wrong?’ Perhaps we can, together, come up with a good answer.”
On “Hook & Crook,” lead singer Duke Amayo calls for the need for a spiritual detachment of sorts as a way of managing the ever-increasing stress of global affairs. The three-part “Tombstown” offers almost an inversion of “Gold Rush,” laying out the existence of a utopian land of plenty over a spiritual jazz journey that features the vocal group Zap Mama.
The 411: Antibalas, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based group that is in the midst of a tour in support of their latest album, Where the Gods Are in Peace, play the Sweetwater Music Hall on October 25. MORE INFO & TIX.
Enjoy the band’s performance on NPRs Tiny Desk Concerts from a few years ago: