Chicago Afrobeat: Off the Grid

“The group’s songs are musical snowballs, opening as minimalist skeletons – a buoyant bass line or a lone, repeated guitar chord – before picking up keyboards, horns and various percussive elements. Gathering momentum, the songs thunder to a hip-shaking climax.”
– Chicago Tribune

As the world’s cultural and political climate evolves, so does its music.  Rooted in the turbulence of social change, afrobeat coalesced decades ago from a fiery political landscape of Nigeria in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Now, with the polarized state of society since the turn of the millennium, afrobeat again grips the world – this time, the American musical climate. Chicago Afrobeat Project, emerging in 2002 from an industrial, urban Chicago art community, has established itself as leaders in the non-traditionalist side of the afrobeat movement.  The 7-14 person ensemble energizes the classic afrobeat influences of juju, highlife, American funk, and afro-Cuban music with a formative infusion of experimental jazz and rock elements that thrive in the Chicago music scene.  Inherent in the group’s sound is an expression of world cultural unity and social awareness within a medium of music, dance and
rebellious celebration.

Afrobeat’s range of influences sit in a restless state of hypnotic, dance-compelling energy at times juxtaposed against a left-leaning poignant political message.  The CAbP formula injects unique songwriting and solo experimentation to push the group’s sound forward both at their live performances and on studio recordings.  The individual players, coming from diverse backgrounds, each hold their own as soloists to add uniquely musically informed characteristics to the performances.

Melodic and hard-hitting horn lines create a lyrical flow delivered by a cutting, driven rhythm section dynamic.  The group disperses complex call-and-response percussion songs throughout the shows.  African dancers from Chicago’s Muntu Dance Theatre accompany the band at select performances.  Combine these organic musical and visual elements together, and the overall presentation contributes further to the impact and originality of the band’s music.

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