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 the world 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.
Chicago Afrobeat Project has released three albums to date including a self-titled album (2005), “(A) Move to Silent Unrest” (2007), and the newest release, “Off the Grid” (2008).
The band was nominated for the Chicago Music Award’s (CMA) “Award of Honor for Contribution to World Beat Music” in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and was nominated as Best African Artist in the CMAs in 2004 and 2005. As a natural extension of the group’s ability to connect diverse musical styles through afrobeat, CAbP has featured many notable Chicago guest musicians at its live performances including Howard Levy of Bela Fleck fame, Fareed Haque of Garaj Mahal, seven-time Grammy-winner Paul Wertico, Bobby Broom, Jeff Parker of Tortoise, Kalyan Pathak, Diverse, Ugochi, Morikeba Kouyate and many other Chicago greats.
Kevin Ford - keyboards, Dave Glines - guitar, Marcus Evans - drums, Mark Thomson - trombone, Garick Smith - bari sax, Angelo Garcia - tenor sax, Graham Czach - bass guitar, Danjuma Gaskin - congas, George Jones - percussion (select shows), TJ Oklnola - talking drum (select shows), Tosha Alston and Ebony Tolliver - dancers (select shows).
"Chicago Afrobeat Project" (2005) - Self-titled debut album features Fareed Haque, Diverse, Poetree Chicago, and Morikeba Kouyate.
"(A) Move to Silent Unrest" (2007) features guitarist Bobby Broom and vocalist Ugochi. Album art provided by Ghariokwu Lemi -- artist for many of Fela Kuti's album covers.
"Off the Grid" (2008) 5-track EP features three unreleased tracks as well as a radio version and remix by Backseat Bingo of "Media Man," which originally appeared on "(A) Move to Silent Unrest."
Buzz - Champaign, Urbana
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Chicago Afrobeat Project – Helping the world get down with its bad self since 2002 “With a steadi...Chicago Afrobeat Project – Helping the world get down with its bad self since 2002
“With a steadily growing following around the world, CAbP has successfully established reverberating fan appraisal.” – Weekly buzz
Get ready CU - it's time to get funky. This Saturday, the riled up rhythms and jazz-groove music of Afrobeat are hitting the Canopy Club via a Chicago-infused, nine-member band called the Chicago Afrobeat Project.
The genre of Afrobeat, originated and popularized in the late '60s, is a three-part African percussion, jazz and funk rhythms . Generally, the band is a fairly large group of members playing an assortment of instruments with varying vocal styles.
"These styles really attracted me because of their untamed and raw sound that was similar to the music I grew up listening to," Percussionist Marshall Greenhouse said when asked what attracted him to Afrobeat.
The genre of Afrobeat was birthed by the funk-jazz guru of Nigeria, Fela Kuti, who was influenced by the American free-jazz movement. Deeply inspired by political concerns, Fela Kuti sent controversial messages of injustice and government corruption through his music, oftentimes improvising, thus paving the way for the essential part of the Afrobeat sound: improvisation.
Recently, the genre of Afrobeat has experienced a surge in popularity owing in part to modern Afrobeat performers such as the Chicago Afrobeat Project (CAbP), who have resurfaced the compellingly energetic, and completely dance-worthy, funk-groove music.
The new generation of Afrobeat has evolved as a re-introduction to funky beats. More properly called Afropop or Groove, this more contemporary version of Afrobeat includes a DJ who re-mixes Afrobeat songs. Although CAbP has many musicians, they do not have a steady DJ. CAbP is still dedicated to Afrobeat roots, consisting only of instrumental musicians who have refreshed the Afrobeat scene through contemporary and Chicago twists.
"There are so many great musicians and styles of music out there from all over the world that most people here in the states don't know about. CAbP, and other Afrobeat groups in the US, are helping spread the Afrobeat sound to new audiences," said Marshall Greenhouse. "Of course, I really like it when people see us that are familiar with the genre, but what excites me the most is when someone hears us for the first time and loves the sound so much they begin to check out artists such as Fela Kuti."
In celebration of their first album release, the self-titled Chicago Afrobeat Project, the CAbP has most recently been performing a fusion of their own songs with covers by Fela Kuti and other Afrobeat versions of hip-hop and rock classics.
The CAbP's first release has been charted for the past nine weeks and is currently at its peak at #10 on the CMJ New World Music Charts.
After three years of touring, CAbP's visit to Champaign-Urbana will be their second performance at the Canopy Club. With their last visit in mind, anyone can expect an all-night dancing groove-a-thon (they are rumored to have people dancing until 5 a.m.!) - no energy drinks or alcohol required.
The band itself is a fusion of well-matched musicians who have successfully combined the Chicago experimental music scene with the resurfaced Afrobeat funk. The band includes drums, guitar, keyboards, trombone, baritone sax, tenor sax, bass guitar and congas - as well as a few other unique instruments that appear in select shows.
Although the band is so large in number, no one musician has developed as the frontman. This is especially evident in the band's extended jam songs. Throughout any given performance, each member emerges as the band's lead in a "musical burst" and then blends back into the collective music to let another member step forward. Through improvisation, the band members create a distinct personality for each of their songs.
"The roots of our music is of course Afrobeat, so we compose with the idea of writing Afrobeat, but our individual influences from the other styles of music we've played and listened to throughout our life come into effect as well," Marshall Greenhouse said.
CAbP began practicing their music in a third-story loft on Lake Street in downtown Chicago before officially coming together as a band in 2002. Since then, the band has developed a network of supporters and friends who frequently appear as guest performers, dancers and musicians in select shows.
In tandem with spreading the sound of Afrobeat around the globe, CAbP has also infused itself into the Journalists Against AIDS Nigeria foundation (NAAIDS) by donating a percentage of all sales from their new album. NAAIDS is a non-profit organization that battles the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria by establishing communication programs through media-based and non-governmental advocacies. With the Nigerian legend Fela Kuti in mind, the CAbP remains connected to Afrobeat roots by returning to the community from which their music emerged.
With a steadily growing following around the world, CAbP has successfully established reverberating fan appraisal.
As best articulated by the West Virginian Graffiti: "[CAbP] have this creepy funk core to them that radiates through a thick African groove. You would have to be dead not to tap your foot to those guys."
Come get down with the Chicago Afrobeat Project at the Canopy Club at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14. Tickets are $7.
Charleston City Paper
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"Anyone can learn a beat, but to actually play it with the right feeling and groove takes effort," s..."Anyone can learn a beat, but to actually play it with the right feeling and groove takes effort," says Marshall Greenhouse, drummer and founding member of the Chicago Afrobeat Project.
The group's moniker came as a deliberate attempt to convey the connection between Chicago's diverse musical culture with the openness to experiment in the Afrobeat genre. Their newly-released, 10-song, self-titled album features a slew of hot world-jazz players as guests and makes the case for the American/Nigerian funk-beat connection.
Marshall was particularly influenced by a New York-based group called Antibalas, who reproduced the sounds and rhythms of the genre's founder, Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti.
"We wanted to tie the roots of Afrobeat with the urban sounds of a forward-thinking Chicago experimental music scene. We've been playing out for three years solid, trying to mix sounds and make people dance. It's challenging because it's not at all like anything else going on. You have to be creative. It's also dance music, which is the best part."
Afrobeat was pioneered in the 1960s and '70s by Kuti, who released dozens of albums over 40 years. The genre is rooted in drum-and-horn-driven West African "juju" and "highlife" music, and American funk and jazz-fusion.
"Basically, just being a drummer drew me to this music," says Marshall, who studied jazz in his school years. "When I heard Afrobeat, I loved it because it basically mixed all of the American kinds of music that I like with the African stuff. That's when I knew what I wanted to do."
The touring lineup includes Greenhouse, guitarist Dave Glines, keyboardist Kevin Ford, trombonist Mark Thomson, sax players Garick Smith and Angelo Garcia, bassist Antonio Carella, percussionist Danjuma, and other guest musicians and dancers. This marks their first-ever performance in Charleston. –T. Ballard Lesemann
The Chicago Afrobeat Project perform at the Pour House (1977 Maybank Hwy., 571-4343) at 10 p.m. on Sat. Sept. 9. Cover is $7. Check www.chicagoafrobeatproject.com for more.
Reader's Guide to the World Music Festival
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This recently formed local nine-piece is dedicated to advancing Afrobeat, the funky music developed ...This recently formed local nine-piece is dedicated to advancing Afrobeat, the funky music developed and popularized by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti. In its tightly wound grooves the group displays a strong jazz sensibility a la electric Miles Davis and just the right amount of restraint: the horns sit out while the percussion percolates beneath extended electric-piano solos, and things are left to simmer for a while en route to the frenzied climaxes.
New Orleans Jazz Fest, 2004
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To all the members of CHICAGO AFROBEAT PROJECT:May 14, 2004 Thought I would share some of the exci...To all the members of CHICAGO AFROBEAT PROJECT:May 14, 2004
Thought I would share some of the excitement you created when you performed a live set on the air during our 4/24/04 Jazz Fest Jam Session Live from the WWOZ studio.
Listeners from around the world were very anxious to share just how much they enjoyed the set. I received many enthusiastic words of praise about the performance over the Jazz Fest weeks on the phone, in the studio, and most especially at our hospitality tent at the Jazz Fest. Several people, from as far away as Japan, listening on the web that night stopped me the following weekend to tell me how much they enjoyed the live music.
I wish you all nothing but success and should the road take you back to the Crescent City, please be in touch with me prior. We'd love to have you bring your magic music to our airwaves again.
All the best,
From Graffiti - West Virginia's News Alternative
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Later on in the month I got to see Chicago Afrobeat Project at Goodfellas on 4th Avenue. This ensemb...Later on in the month I got to see Chicago Afrobeat Project at Goodfellas on 4th Avenue. This ensemble has played all over the country with guys like Cyro Baptista, and Garaj Mahal. They have this creepy funk core to them that radiates through a thick African groove you would have to be dead to not tap your foot to those guys. Very hip, and very contemporary.
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The riled up and percolating polyrhythms that musical iconoclast Fela Anikulapo-Kuti used to foment ...The riled up and percolating polyrhythms that musical iconoclast Fela Anikulapo-Kuti used to foment civil disobedience in his native Nigeria are alive and well and living in Chicago. Thanks largely to the efforts of the horn laden Chicago Afrobeat Project, where slow funky builds and slippery guitar lines meet layers of percussion in a melange that always threatens to detonate, Fela's distinctively charged sound is experiencing a renaissance. Snaking through worldly originals and a smattering of Fela's masterworks, the CAbP keeps the house moving with its talented blend of musicians, schooled in all of the traditions that feed into Afrobeat.
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Sandi Heidelman had made countless trips to the Windy City, but she'd never heard of the Chicago Afr...Sandi Heidelman had made countless trips to the Windy City, but she'd never heard of the Chicago Afrobeat Project till the city's annual folk-and-roots-music festival last July. Sitting inches from the stage, the Lakewood bank teller watched the 10-man band unleash an hour-long fusion of African rhythms and jazz melodies. "One by one, each guy stepped out in front, played solo for a few minutes, then blended back into this cool collective groove," recalls Heidelman. "I was like, 'If they ever come to Cleveland, I will be the first in line to buy tickets.'" Here's her chance: The Chicago Afrobeat Project performs at 9 p.m. Friday at Wilbert's, 812 Huron Road.
The Athens News-Athens Music Scene
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The Gator has an interesting show upstairs on Saturday night. The Chicago Afrobeat Project takes a ...The Gator has an interesting show upstairs on Saturday night. The Chicago Afrobeat Project takes a cue from African musician extraodinaire, Fela Kuti (not only covering his songs, but running them for the better part of 20 minutes). These folks combine world-beat, funk, jazz, hip-hop and dance music into lovely stew that builds slowly and continues to evolve as it simmers along and individual (as well as numerous) members are unleashed. This will be a really cool show. I'll see you there.
The Columbia Daily Tribune.
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There are a couple of other concerts that have the potential to hit that mark this upcoming week. H...There are a couple of other concerts that have the potential to hit that mark this upcoming week. Here they are: Chicago Afrobeat Project, tonight at The Music Cafe: After drawing raves from the crowd as the opener for Friday-night favorite Abateria during its last visit to The Music Cafe, the Chicago Afrobeat Project returns to carry on the musical vision of Nigerian pioneer Fela Kuti.
Yes, utterances such as "fusion" and "world music" might normally send you screaming away from such a setting, but I encourage you to not give in to your fears.
CAbP's sets consist of 90% original music written since the group's inception in 2002. The band's carefully chosen cover songs include selections from African artists Fela Kuti and Manu Dibango, and is known for clever afrobeat interpretations of music from groups such as Fugazi, The Talking Heads, and Ceu.
The collective's original material is vast and can be performed for more than four hours per performance. Typical performances include two 75 minute sets.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.