Explorations in Afrobeat (Euforquestra Productions, 2006)
Think hard… when was the last time you heard a bunch of guys from the midwestern US combine
Fela Kuti-style Afrobeat with chants in praise of the Yoruba pantheon of dieties honored in the Afro-Cuban Lucumi religion? If it’s been longer than you’re comfortable with, get ahold of this offering from Iowa-based Euforquestra.
Taking a cue from both the long, tight, funky structures of Afrobeat and deeply traditional Cuban ensembles like Los Muñequitos de Mantanzas, they’ve come up with a very good best-of-both-worlds. The instrumental arrangements sport that familiar combination of African rhythm and James Brown funk that
Fela Kuti pioneered and American bands likeAntibalas continue to champion, but instead of lyrics ridiculing government incompetence or urging you to shake it on the dance floor, praises are chanted
to the Orishas (spiritual beings) who represent and oversee humans and nature.
Like much Afrobeat, a lot of time passes without a word sung, and the members of Euforquestra maximize their skills on drums, percussion, bass, guitar, keys, saxes and vibes before slipping in with a group or solo chant. They big up some of the major Orishas (Elegua, Chango, Obatala, Ogun, Ochun) and expertly tailor the vocals to fit the tempos and structures or just keep it simple, utilizing only clapping as accompaniment on “Intro to Chango,” for example.
This is an unpretentiously fine CD by a band out to combine two African strands that make musical and spiritual sense together. Euforquestra are explorers sure enough, and I’d say they’ve found what they were looking for.