Wednesday, April 25, High Noon Saloon, 8 pm
Brooklyn's Antibalas isn't the only group in the U.S. that's taken inspiration from the late Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti and his aggressive, funk- and jazz-tinged Afrobeat sound. But it is the most potent. Nine years on, the multi-ethnic 12-piece group has learned to cinch up the tension so tightly on its inexorable dance grooves that resistance to the beat is futile. And when Antibalas' big, punchy horn section makes its presence felt on a politically minded original or a Fela cover, the aural intensity is almost too much to bear. Like Fela himself, the Brooklynites mean to exhilarate people, not simply entertain them, which makes their concerts particularly celebratory. Had a bad day, month, week, year? They'll cure what ails you.
Thankfully, Antibalas (whose name means 'bulletproof' in Spanish) aren't content simply to play the role of funky Fela worshipers. Their insistent new CD, Security, does find them reaching a fever pitch on 'Filibuster X,' a lengthy, Fela-inspired groove that features Nigerian-born vocalist Amayo and the rest of the band calling Dick Cheney and Bush Republicans in general to account in a some tight call-and-response passages. But with help from producer John McEntire (Tortoise), they also dial down the energy level and float through dreamy dub-inspired instrumentals and languorous, meditative jazz that borrows its mood from John Coltrane's Afro Blue Impressions.
Antibalas was already a powerful political dance band with a reputation for wringing gallons of sweat out of audiences. Now that they're adding less frantic sounds to the mix, they have an opportunity to become an intriguing global big band with a broad musical palette. And that's cause for celebration, too.
Sunday, April 22, Annex, 9:30 pm
Mikey Dread's long career began with an influential stint manning the first radio show in Jamaica to focus solely on reggae. Dread called the show 'Dread at the Controls,' and he used it to expose the roots and dub styles of reggae that had been anathema to the island's commercial airwaves. The show's memorable title also became the name of his first album, a jubilant, boundary-pushing disc that took full advantage of his casual, singsong vocal style and his prowess at the mixing desk.
Dread's own material attracted an audience in Jamaica, and his refined ear led to production gigs with Sugar Minott, Junior Murvin and other reggae chart-busters. His place in reggae history was already assured when he went to England in 1979 to test new waters and attend broadcasting school. Although he didn't meet the Clash during that sojourn abroad, the reggae-addicted punkers took note of him. By 1980, he was producing the bass-heavy 'Bankrobber' for Joe Strummer et al. The same year he also brought more dub consciousness to the Clash's Sandinista!
Since then, Dread has worked in television in the U.K., produced a variety of other artists (including UB40 and Izzy Stradlin), toured all over the world and earned a college degree here in the U.S. His early work remains vital and challenging three decades on, and you can bet he'll add unexpected wrinkles to it at the Annex.