There have been many conspiracy theories about the supposed “deaths” of many of our favorite musicians: Elvis still walks the Earth, of course; Jimi lives; and Tupac has released more albums in “death” than he had in life. But, when it comes to Antibalas, if Fela Kuti wasn’t in the studio, writing the jams on Talkatif, then someone needs to get sued.
Now, when I say Antibalas sounds like Fela, I mean it. I mean, there is no word in the English vocabulary to convey exactly how much they do. Even Femi doesn’t sound as much like his father as these guys do (and he played in Daddy’s band for years). In fact, the poor boy would be hard pressed to find the differences between the two.
Actually, Talkatif is “Fela Lite” in two, major ways. First, the length of songs. This is for the AD/HD crowd who can’t endure the 20-minute funk marathons of the Father of Afro-Pop. And, just like Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, this American band has stripped away the incendiary politics of their inspiration. Therefore, the music is still funky, but where Fela sets off H-bombs in the studio, Antibalas lights firecrackers.
These guys have taken some criticism for trying to be AfroBeat. Well, they definitely are that — just not the most original that you ever heard. Of course, if you’re going to copy anyone, I’d rather it be Fela, as opposed to, say, Majek Fashek. Because the music is funky fantastic and lays down grooves that’ll move, I’ll still have to recommend it (after all, if we condemned to failure every artist who was derivative, 9/10 of the music biz would have to close up shop). However, since Fela was as prolific and powerful as a nuclear holocaust, you can always buy one of his army of CDs and bask in his afterglow.