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Interview:
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra returns to recording mode
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

A five-year wait between albums might have seemed long for its fans, but the time flew by for the members of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.

"There are a lot of things that we are all involved in, from session work to touring with other bands to the Broadway musical ('Fela!'), so we were all very busy," says saxophonist and group founder Martin Perna. "And most of us play in other projects with each other, so it wasn't like we hadn't seen each other during that time.

"Mostly we were just happy to be able to do it again. On one hand it seemed like awhile, but on the other hand it was like a very comfortable glove that just fits right on your hand. A lot of things have changed and nothing has changed, in a good sense. There's still that familiarity and that intimacy of everybody working together."

On the new "Antibalas," which came out in August and was produced by former guitarist and Dap-Tone Records founder Gabe Roth, the troupe continues to champion the Nigerian Afrobeat style of Fela Kuti, blending it with other influences from around the world. Since 2007's "Security," however, the "Fela!" musical, which featured Antibalas members in its band, has shined a brighter spotlight on Afrobeat, which Perna and his cohorts are hoping will bring a more informed, and larger, audience to Antibalas as it re-emerges.

"I really hope that's what happens," says Perna, 36. "It kind of remains to be seen how much people connect the dots between the musical and our involvement in it and what Antibalas is doing and how things are similar -- and very different.

"We're not trying to recreate Fela's legacy. What we're doing is playing a form, in the same way Son House played a form and B.B. King played the blues form, and then newer people follow in that tradition and follow the rules but move them around a little bit. This is the first big, big touring we've done outside our established bases on the coast and stuff since the musical, so we're interested to see what affect that's had."

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Lee Fields & the Expressions and Will Sessions perform Friday, Sept. 14, at the Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 248-833-9700 or visit www.majesticdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.majesticdetroit.com

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