Chicago Afrobeat Project


Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Chicago Afrobeat Project – “Tibet on It” from Chicago Afrobeat Project (2005 CAbP Music)


My first conscious experience with afrobeat music was hearing that master of the genre, Fela Kuti. What’s maybe strange about that is that I was hearing his music on a Bread and Circuits LP, right before that band’s particular brand of hardcore punk drowned it out (add afrobeat to the list of things that punk rock taught me).

Later, I became excited about this new genre. As I’ve aged I’ve found that international music has become far more interesting to me than keeping my finger on the pulse of current trends, and so for a while there I was downloading a lot of afrobeat, which was in it’s way sort of the trend of the day.

The Chicago Afrobeat Project is from Chicago, not West Africa, which I suppose makes them somewhat nontraditional right off the bat. Allmusic calls them “a multi-racial collective,” so it stands to reason that other influences are going to creep in (especially in a collective of fifteen members, as is the case here).

Here’s what really works about this track: layering. It begins with a traditional African percussion groove that’s just funky enough, and builds towards further funkiness as time goes on. It is then topped by traditional afrobeat guitar playing (which, to my non-guitar mind, reads as chords played in rhythm in the higher octaves), and then, finally, those rich horns — saxophone, and trombones  bringing the real heavy funk overtop an organ. There’s some horn solos and everything is just so perfect and danceable, AND THEN everything changes on a dime and we’re in even funkier territory with wah pedals and high hats opening and closing all over the place, and that afrobeat electric piano that is ever so distorted.

It’s time to stop reading and start dancing.