Music » Livewire

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

Sunday, May 25, at the Beachland Ballroom.


Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
  • Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
The Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra is politically minded and powerful, with a lineup that includes Latinos, whites, blacks from America and Africa, and Asian Americans. "This 14-plus-piece band hits hard with the left and the right," says the Antibalas website ( "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." For a protest album, the band's latest, Talkatif, contains remarkably few lyrics. In fact, with titles like "War Is a Crime" and "N.E.S.T.A. 75" ("Never Ever Submit to Authority"), most songs have no lyrics at all, which leads to the question: How does an entirely instrumental song make a political statement in English, Yoruba, and Spanish?

The answer is placement. Antibalas places its high-energy albums in the hands of the politically inclined and lets the music send those hands into yangalala -- a traditionally African show of ecstasy with hands high and fingers spread. When the website asks its grassroots supporters to share the sound, it has a good idea where they should go: "We'll need you to distribute fliers in record shops, bookstores, coffee houses, other venues, community centers, colleges, and wherever it seems appropriate." "Appropriate" is anywhere you'd find people who vibe on the energy of communal expression. Fans at an Antibalas show are often young, wearing sideburns, dreadlocks, thrift-store T-shirts, and sneakers: the kind of people who start amateur drum circles after sharing grass roots of their own. Bring your bongo to the Beachland and join them.

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