Music Is The Weapon Of The Future

What can be said about the legendary Tony Allen, the bebop-informed rhythm machine, that has not already been said? Fela Kuti once stated that, ‘without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat’. Black Voices now stands as a milestone in the Afrobeat revival and Tony’s second album Home Cooking was made with the help of the Unsung Heroes production squad and featuring the likes of Ty, Damon Albarn and Eska.

The Kuti family has been making news in the world of music for some time now, but it may be Fela’s youngest son, Seun Kuti, who carries the torch for pure, unadulterated Afrobeat. Having been a member of Fela’s later band since the age of 9, the gravel-voiced Seun’s overall sound is closest to his father’s. The current unit is, in fact, Fela’s own group, Egypt 80, with alto saxophonist Lekan Animashaun as musical director. ‘Think Africa’ was recorded in Lagos in 2006 with Pidgin English lyrics concerning government corruption. Keyboardist, arranger, vocalist and educator Dele Sosimi’s ‘Afro-groove’ is quite a jazzy number, and in the musical spirit of Fela. In fact, Dele and his childhood friend Femi Kuti were leading players in Egypt 80, joining in 1979. In 1986 Sosimi and Femi left to form their own band, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and the Positive Force, of which Dele was the musical director and bandleader.

Credited with introducing a new generation to Afrobeat is the Brooklyn-based collective, Antibalas, who has been making waves recently, delivering the soundtrack to the new musical, Fela!, showing Off Broadway. Also emerging from the contemporary Afrobeat revival scene in NYC is Kokolo. Their irresistible groove, conscious lyrics and powerful horns made such an impression that More Consideration became the stand-out bonus disc to accompany the Rough Guide compilation – allowing the listener to dig deeper into Africa’s greatest dance groove.

Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Toli Almasi founded Femm Nameless, an all-female group that is a welcome tonic to the most frustrating thing about the Afrobeat movement: a male-centric view of the world. ‘Ibajebe’ asks “What If” – what if the order were turned upside down, what if we had the courage to unite and ask the tough questions, see each other’s reflection in one another’s eye? We could challenge the status quo, question authority, fight injustice, eradicate inequality. Fela’s lyrics certainly commented on power dynamics, but Toli’s fearless questioning makes new statements about that subject in a feminine voice that carries a universal message.