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Proudly Providing 'America’s Only Live Afrobeat Party'

Listen to Lisa Simeone's report Listen to the report from Weekend All Things Considered

 View a photo gallery featuring Antibalas

Experience the sound of Antibalas Experience the sound of Antibalas, live at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Aug. 25, 2001 -- It’s almost show time for Antibalas, and before hitting the stage at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., the dozen members of the band get into a huddle and warm up with a communal cheer. The audience came to dance and revel in the one-world message of rhythm, and the band delivers a bracing dose of Afrobeat.

Antibalas group photo
The regular members of the band often invite other musicians onstage to flavor the Antibalas groove with dub, cumbia and reggae beats.
Photo: Antibalas

If there’s one common spirit that animates Antibalas -- a Spanish term that means either “bulletproof” or “against bullets,” depending on your viewpoint -- it’s the living memory of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

The band’s music shares the easy dance beats and unabashed anti-dictatorship political messages that made Fela a cult figure all across Africa. Since his death due to AIDS-related illness and heart disease in 1997, Fela has become something of a martyr for the cause of pan-Africanism.

Fela’s weapon was Afrobeat, a joyous dance music. Antibalas picks up the beat from where Fela left off, and they shared their music and message with Weekend All Things Considered host Lisa Simeone at a recent interview in NPR’s Washington studios.

Band member Jordon McClean is a tall, lanky figure onstage, and sports a small trumpet
Band member Jordon McClean plays a small trumpet in NPR's studio.
Photo: Tracy Wahl, NPR

According to band members Duke, Jordon and Phil, the band has a serious mission, and some serious weapons at its disposal: “Monstrous horns and bass layered over funky polyrhythmic beats and breaks coupled with furious lyrics challenging and attacking the dehumanizing capitalist system and inciting insurrection in English, Yoruba, and Spanish.” Their latest CD is called Liberation Afrobeat, Vol. 1.

The members of the band, formed in 1998, are all based in New York City and perform for political benefits and music festivals all over the world. For the past year, the band has hosted what they claim is “America’s only live Afrobeat party.”

Other Resources:

Antibalas Web site

More on Fela Anikulapo-Kuti