with Red Baraat, DJ sets by Chief Boima and Deadly Dragons Sound System & presented by BOOM Collective and Meatball
Fri December 14th, 2012
Minimum Age: 21+
Doors Open: 8:00PM
Show Time: 9:00PM
Event Ticket: $25
Day of Show: $30
*THIS EVENT WILL BE HAPPENING AT THE BROOKLYN MASONIC TEMPLE: 317 Clermont Ave at Lafayette Ave in Fort Greene Brooklyn*
This is a general admission, standing event.
Jordan McLean is a New York City-based trumpeter, composer, arranger, bandleader, producer and educator. He has been active in the professional music world since 1992, having performed, recorded and collaborated with a multitude of musicians, ensembles and performance organizations around the world, from Ornette Coleman to Public Enemy. Jordan graduated summa cum laude with a degree in composition from SUNY Purchase, is a charter member of Antibalas, served as Associate Music Director on the TONY Award winning musical FELA!, and is co-founder of System Dialing Records.
“Rhythm is what makes a good Afrobeat record,” says Gabriel Roth, Daptone Records co-founder, producer and connoisseur of all things funky. “Not just the rhythm section, but the rhythm of the horns, the rhythm of the vocals, the rhythm of the keyboards, everybody’s rhythm. It’s not just being about being right or wrong in your rhythm, or being good at it, but it’s about feeling something the same way, swinging the same way, anticipating things the same way, and hitting things the same way – everybody hearing music the same way, and being able to turn all those instruments into one voice.
“Antibalas is the only band that can do that, right now. That’s why they’re still at the front of the scene, after all these years.”
Fourteen years after their first gig, and five since the release of their last album, 2007’s Security, Antibalas – Afrobeat’s premier second-wave ensemble – are back with their fifth full-length release. Simply titled Antibalas, the album is both a blazing reaffirmation of the NYC band’s collective musical strengths, and a hard-hitting continuation of their funkified excursions into what Antibalas founder and baritone saxophonist Martn Perna calls “our vault of esoteric sounds and knowledge.”
“We kicked around a couple of different titles,” Perna explains, “but we could all agree on Antibalas. We’re always who we have been, and this is what we are and what we’re about, without any frills. If you’ve never heard any of our albums before, this is the one to listen to.”
“Musically, it’s our best playing as a band,” says trumpeter Jordan McLean. “We’re having more fun together, we’re all breathing in sync, the structures of the compositions and the overall sound are tighter, and the band is sounding better than ever.”
Recorded over a two-week period at Daptone’s House of Soul Studios in Brooklyn with Roth at the helm, Antibalas is the first Antibalas full-length to be released on Daptone, which – given Antibalas’ deep- and long-running ties to the label – brings things kind of full-circle for the band. Antibalas has shared past and present members with several outfits in the Daptone stable (such as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Menahan Street Band and The Budos Band), while Roth was an original member of the band, and produced the first three Antibalas albums. “Making this record was like going back and playing basketball with all your high school buddies, or something,” says Roth.
The “family reunion” feeling on Antibalas is further bolstered by the return of original guitarist Luke O’Malley, who contributed “Dirty Money,” the album’s effervescent opening track. “Luke O’Malley has an amazing sense of music,” says tenor saxophonist Stuart Bogie, “and ‘Dirty Money’ is a perfect example of that. But he’s also such a hilarious and inspiring person, who leads with just kind of a blind energy into everything he does. He’s very much a reason why everyone in that room is there.”
“We’ve woven ourselves together musically, but also personally,” says Perna. “It’s a community that has existed as Antibalas for 14 years now, and if you go back to when Gabe and Luke and I started making music together, it goes back to ’94.”
According to Perna, a little-known but tasty morsel of music trivia is the fact that TV on the Radio, The Dap-Kings and Antibalas all began in the same apartment – a decrepit old factory loft at 132 Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg. “Gabe, Tunde Adebimpe and I were all living there at the time Antibalas was getting started. The Dap-Kings were called the Soul Providers at the time; that was just getting off the ground. Tunde just finished at NYU and was doing animation stuff at the time, and we would mess around on the cassette four-track and make little songs. And then Dave Sitek moved into the loft, and he and Tunde started making music. So this little liminal space was so fertile with friendship and creative imagination, and this shared sense of struggle that was manifested in three musical groups that have made a pretty strong impact on America in different ways.”
Originally conceived by Perna as a cross between the NYC Latin funk grooves of Eddie Palmieri, Harvey Averne and Mandrill and the Afrobeat jams of the late Fela Kuti, the music of Antibalas gradually shifted towards the Fela side of the equation. “As we got deeper into Afrobeat, we realized that we were juggling a lot of things, and kind of need to have only one thing on our plate,” Perna recounts.
“At the time, there was not a lot of interest in Afrobeat, or in Fela, per se,” adds Roth. “Because of that, a lot of people looked at Antibalas as pioneers in this second wave of Afrobeat that kind of blossomed around the world. There are great Afrobeat bands now in Brazil, in Chicago, in England, in a lot of places, and I think a lot of those bands looked to Antibalas, alongside Fela, as one of their real inspirations.”
Through their concerts, tours and recordings, Antibalas have helped re-popularize the classic Afrobeat sound, in the process earning the admiration of a wide array of respected musicians, including everyone from Questlove and David Byrne to Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Much in demand as collaborators, they’ve performed as a band in the studio and on stage with such artists as Medeski Martin & Wood, The Roots, Public Enemy, Paul Simon, Amadou and Mariam, and Fela’s son Femi Kuti, to name a few. In 2007, following the release of the band’s last album, Security, Antibalas’ Afrobeat expertise led to the involvement of several band members – including trombonist Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean, who respectively served as Musical Director and Assistant Musical Director – in Fela!, Bill T. Jones’ musical based on the life of Fela Kuti, which eventually went on to a successful Broadway run, earning eleven Tony Award nominations and three wins.
But Fela! wasn’t the only thing keeping Antibalas busy between Security and sessions for the new album; in addition to playing about 50 shows a year across the globe as Antibalas, the band’s members have individually recorded and/or performed with TV on the Radio, Iron and Wine, Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, The Roots, Angelique Kidjo (whose 2007 album Djin Djin earned the Antibalas Horns a Grammy Award), Ornette Coleman, David Byrne, Miike Snow, St. Vincent, Gomez, Wale, Spoon, The Black Keys, Imogen Heap, Lee Fields, Melvin Gibbs, Sugar Minott, Patti Smith, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, and The Budos Band, as well as devoted ample time to their (and each other’s) side projects like Ocote Soul Sounds, Superhuman Happiness, Piano Music & Song Trio, Chico Mann, and Fu-Arkist-Ra.
“During these past five years, with all the side projects, it was still all of us playing together, just not in Antibalas,” Perna explains. “We were all still locking in together, building friendships, building the musical trust, and building the sort of ESP that happens when musicians play together for a long time. It wasn’t like, ‘See you in five years!’ We’re not reuniting per se, because we were never disunited; we were just all busy with other hustles.”
That heightened musical ESP is deliciously tangible on Antibalas, much of which was recorded live in the studio to one-inch 8-track tape. “There’s very little in the way of overdubs,” reveals Roth. “A little bit of background vocals, maybe a punch here on a solo or a guitar part, but for the most part it was live. I’d done the early Antibalas records on 16-track, but this record I did on 8-track, which I was able to do because the band is playing better than ever. I could mix people together, and not worry about how I was going to take ’em apart and fix ’em later, because these guys are the baddest in the business, and they were swinging from the beginning.”
Tracks like “The Rat Catcher,” “Him Belly No Go Sweet,” “Ari Degbe” and “Ibeji” capture the band’s fiery telepathy and unrelenting sense of groove, while also showcasing their most concisely focused attack yet. From the deft rumble of the new rhythm section (drummer Miles Arntzen and bassist Nikhil Yerawadekar) to the leonine growl of longtime frontman Amayo, the band – which also includes Victor Axelrod (organ, electric piano, sticks), Marcos Garca (guitar, background vocals) and Marcus Farrar (shekere, sticks, background vocals) – sounds more locked in and self-assured than ever.
“What makes us tick, and what makes any band a band, is a shared collective idea about what the sound is,” says McLean, “and then of course on an individual level, it’s what each person brings to the band to give the band its defining sound. We have a shared idea of Afrobeat and Fela’s music, but we also have these 10 or 12 individuals who are also bringing their own heartbeat and their own perspective and their own experiences as individuals, and bringing that together to make Antibalas.”
“We love this Afrobeat, it’s important to us, it’s not appreciated enough – and making it is a transformative process in so many different ways,” says Perna. “Unlike most music that’s really ego-driven and centered around one person or cult of personality, all of us have had to learn to function with really specified roles – everyone becomes a drummer, in a certain sense. Our parts may be played on melodic instruments, but they’re part of this huge interlocking net that holds up the music.”
“What’s interesting about Antibalas is that it really is a multi-headed beast,” adds Bogie. “The last song on the album is ‘Sare Kon Kon,’ and it’s a song that has a kinetic energy that’s just racing and racing the whole time. To paraphrase the lyrics, it’s like, ‘We’re running, we’re running, we don’t know where we’re going, but everybody’s running.’ That kind of encapsulates the rushing anarchy that keeps the band together. It’s the idea that we’re all kind of on this train, and there’s no director, no engineer, no brake; everybody just has to run, and go or not go.
“It’s kind of mysterious,” he continues. “Antibalas is really a band that is bigger than any of its members. I believe that it is one of the most genuine anarchies that I have ever seen in a band. I think that’s what’s most interesting and different about the band. But I think it’s the essence of the music, and our love for it, that really brings us together.”
The place: a club in the middle of Brooklyn renowned for its sophisticated clientele, its receptivity to innovation, and its ideas from abroad. On a small stage in a tight, dimly lit back room, eight musicians are whipping a New York City crowd into a frenzy with an unprecedented, high energy, gut-busting fusion of jazz, hip-hop beats, rock muscle, funky go-go, and scalding hot bhangra. A horn section blares, percussionists pound, everybody shouts, and the group’s charismatic leader, Sunny Jain, holds the explosive songs together with rhythms from his dhol – the Indian double-headed drum played slung over the shoulder that provides bhangra with its frenetic heartbeat. And just as it was the month before, the line of patrons who came to this club in Park Slope stretched out the door and down the block because they couldn’t get enough of Red Baraat – a riveting octet that NPR has dubbed “The best party band in years.”
Versatility is one the band’s hallmarks. Red Baraat can mesmerize an audience with a funk groove, turn a switch, and drive the same crowd to the brink of delirium. Since its formation in 2008 and those storied nights at Barbès in Park Slope, the magic of Red Baraat has spread far beyond New York City. The group’s second studio album in 2013, Shruggy Ji, debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Music charts and propelled the band on a nonstop three-year world tour that included appearances at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD Festivals in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Along the way they sold out rooms as diverse as the Luxembourg Philharmonic and New York City’s iconic Bowery Ballroom and performed at the request of The White House, TED and Olympic Games. Yet no matter how much success and notoriety Red Baraat has achieved, Sunny Jain and his comrades have never stopped experimenting or adding new elements to their peculiar alchemy.
The group’s soon-to-be-released and third studio album, Bhangra Pirates, features a key element that the first two did not: guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, whose surreal textures and percussive playing is the ideal complement to Jain’s thunderous dhol. Additionally, the sonic pallet has further expanded with processed effects on both the dhol and sousaphone. The formidable Red Baraat brass section remains intact: sousaphonist John Altieri, whose deep bottom end anchors the ensemble’s explorations, electrifying trombonist Ernest Stuart, dexterous sax man Jonathon Haffner, and trumpeter Sonny Singh, whose melodic sensibility has colored all of the band’s projects. Drummers Chris Eddleton and Rohin Khemani alternate between power and precision – Eddleton draws his inspiration from hip-hop and rock, while Khemani from world percussion, notably Indian classical music.
Each musician in the band pulls from distinct traditions while speaking through their instrument with their own particular musical vocabulary. That it works so well is a testament to Sunny Jain’s utopian vision and his faith that communication across cultures doesn’t have to be vexed in the slightest. All it takes is empathy, creativity, love, and willingness to abandon reservations and surrender to the spirit of music and the moment. This effortless outlook empowers Red Baraat to do what it does best – communing with their audience in a joyful, near hedonistic celebration of music and dance, which tellingly draws a crowd even more diverse than the players on stage. “The universality of what Red Baraat does is undeniable,” says Jain. “Bhangra Pirates embodies that push and pull in all of us…free spirit, community, rebellion, tradition, and new journeys.”
A baraat, explains dholi and bandleader Sunny Jain, is an Indian wedding procession – one that includes a groom on top of a horse, friends and family singing and dancing, and usually led by a brass band. (The “red” part of the group’s handle refers both to the symbolic meaning of the color in Indian weddings and the passion he elicits from his musicians and from listeners). Jain was born and raised in Rochester, New York, but his family maintained close ties to India, and with regular summer visits throughout his childhood he applied what he learned from his cultural heritage to his musical education. The drummer and composer recorded several accomplished jazz albums with the Sunny Jain Collective and has collaborated with Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Q-Tip, and the acclaimed Pakistani Sufi-rock band Junoon, among many others. Yet he always dreamed of applying the celebratory energy of the Punjabi wedding bands he had encountered on his trips overseas to American jazz, rock, funk and pop. With Red Baraat, he has realized his ambition and taken the project in wild improvisatory directions he’d never anticipated.