SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the finest exponents of domestically produced Afrobeat in America, powerhouse Brooklyn band Antibalas brings its propulsive sounds to the Bay Area for three shows in San Francisco and Oakland.
Founded in 1998 by baritone saxophonist Martin Perna under the name Conjunto Antibalas (Spanish for “bulletproof ensemble”) before shortening the name to simply Antibalas, the group has held the Afrobeat revival torch higher than any other modern-day disciples of Fela Kuti. Updating the Afrobeat pioneer’s polyrhythmic grooves and fiery political rhetoric with touches of spacious dub and Latin funk — pianist Eddie Palmieri’s 1971 Harlem River Drive album was another cornerstone influence — the rotating collective of players quickly built a following in New York with its fiery live shows that mixed cover songs with politically charged original tunes.
In the summer of 2000, the group released its debut album Liberation Afrobeat Vol. 1, the first of three records that were produced and recorded with early era guitarist and songwriter Gabe Roth (who would leave to focus on his Daptone label and leading the Dap-Kings, the group that backed soul diva Sharon Jones). The expansive ensemble that often swelled to 15 or 16 members toured the U.S. and Europe extensively while collaborating with such notables as Fela’s heirs Femi and Seun Kuti and longtime Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen.
The group would serve as house band for the musical Fela! that built a sizable off-Broadway buzz prior to becoming a massive Tony-winning hit on Broadway in 2009. In the past decade, Antibalas has continued to deliver high-octane, politically minded music to loyal fans despite a steady turnover of players (Perna and lead singer/percussionist Duke Amayo still anchor the group). The crew’s latest effort, the brand new Fu Chronicles on Daptone Records, draws inspiration from Amayo’s background in martial arts as the senior master of the Jow Ga Kung Fu School in pre-gentrification Brooklyn when the band was first coming together. Antibalas brings its kinetic sound back to the Bay for three shows, playing the Independent in San Francisco on Valentine’s before moving to the New Parish in Oakland Saturday and returning to the Indy Sunday night. Forward-thinking modern R&B producer and keyboardist Taylor McFerrin warms up the crowd all three nights.
Friday and Sunday, Feb. 14 and 16, 8:30 p.m. $30-$35
Saturday, Feb. 15, 8:30 p.m. $30-$35