Antibalas | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Antibalas 

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Fela Kuti never exhausted the possibilities of Afrobeat as a music--never even came close. Maybe that's because his re-Africanization of funk was often primarily a vehicle for exhausting the possibilities of being Fela. So the lack of a charismatic front man is kind of a lucky break for this New York outfit--Fela himself may be a hard act to follow (as his son Femi proves with each new recording), but his sidemen sketched an outline that left plenty of space for future disciples to color in. In other words, whichever member of Antibalas suggested focusing on instrumentals for their 2004 disc Who Is This America? (Ropeadope) deserves an extra 16 bars to solo over. As devotees, they retain all the master's sonic trademarks--the slightly sour horns, the call-and-response chants, the woozy political defiance--but they're more structurally disciplined than Fela's band, more accomplished and versatile instrumentally (let's forget Tony Allen for a minute), and aren't afraid to borrow rhythmic inflections from the Latin music that's prominent in so many other African fusions. Government Magic, a new EP available only at shows and on the band's Web site, is a stopgap--three new songs, plus one previously released "hit," plus one dub version. The band's currently working on a proper follow-up and will in fact be laying down tracks with John McEntire during this Chicago visit. They play again at the same venue tomorrow night; DJ Kennedy Octane opens both shows. Thu 9/8, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15.

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