Phil Ballman, who mans the drum kit for the raucous Afrobeat orchestra Antibalas ("bulletproof" in Spanish), is an expert on the difference between the rhythms of African American funk and Nigerian-bred Afrobeat.
"In a lot of traditional funk drumming, there's an emphasis on the back beat, the two and the four. One big difference with Afrobeat drumming is that a lot of times, you have the emphasis on the front of the beat, like the snare comes in on the one and the bass on the two, so you get a more flowing feeling."
The result is a constantly morphing stream of percussion that can run uninterrupted for 20 minutes or more. New York-based Antibalas inherited this Afrobeat blueprint from Fela Kuti, the late, great "James Brown of Africa," who built the hybrid sound out of American funk and West African highlife. Another of Kuti's signature touches were rambling, politically charged mumble-diatribes, a tradition that Antibalas yeller Duke Amayo carries on, but injects with some of the band's anarchist philosophy. Onstage all at once, Antibalas's 16 members belt out a wall of soaring horns and dance beats that aim to get the revolution started. If their performance doesn't raise your spirits, man, you ain't got nothin' to lift.
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