Editorial Review

By Mark Jenkins
Friday, September 21, 2012

After spending a decade mastering the Afrobeat of Nigerian firebrand Fela Kuti, Antibalas took some time off, but only to burrow even deeper into the late Kuti’s jazz-funk style. Members of the Brooklyn group (whose name is Spanish for “bulletproof”) played in the hit Broadway musical “Fela!,” and the 11 current members,
reunited for Antibalas’s self-titled fifth
, sound tighter than ever.

The album includes songs that transplant Kuti’s politics to the contemporary United States, including the opening “Dirty Money.” Over jumpy organ, blaring horns and a classic Afro-Cuban rhythm, Nigerian-raised singer Abraham Amayo recounts a parable of greed. The song’s subject is a mango, but the story could just as easily be about credit default swaps.

Yet words usually play a minor role, even on caustic numbers such as “Him Belly No Go Sweet,” which questions a rich man’s true worth. This is a groove album, recorded quickly and mostly live at the Daptone Records studio, which uses traditional analog equipment. Some of the six sprawling tunes are longtime staples while others were written in the studio, yet all sound as if the band has been playing them forever. Antibalas might not have invented the style, but it works Kuti’s beat better than any outfit this side of