Shacking Up

Aphrodesia – Shackrobeat Vol. 1

Shackrobeat Vol. 1
(Flatbed Lamborgini Records FLR808, 2003)

Though they’ve been pegged as part of the current Afrobeat revival, San Francisco’s Aphrodesia go beyond that. Yes, their music is full of the same sort of interlocking guitars, uninhibited horns and layered percussion found in the pioneering work of the late legendary Fela Kuti and bands like Antibalas who superbly carry on his legacy. They also have a fancy for highlife, makossa, Caribbean rhythms, celebratory vocals and other touches that enhance the combination of African grooves, James Brown-ish funk, freeform solos and lengthy running times that have largely characterized Afrobeat up to now. So, having taken care of categorization or the lack of it, let me say that this CD is pure dynamite.

From the ear-catching percussion swirl that starts things off to the dub reggae trance that closes the proceedings, it’s a musical trip that pleasingly visits many key spots in Africa and the African diaspora.

Lead singer Lara Maykovich spent a couple years in Ghana and Zimbabwe researching and studying African rhythms, songs and dances, bringing a multilingual deep roots feel to such songs as the opening “Olondo,” “Ting Be” and the stunning “Black Rhino,” on which a lovely Stella Chiweshe-type mbira is urged along by drums and vocals that gradually seem to shed their frailty and become more assured. Truly inspired, as is the whole album.

Every member of the 11-piece band contributes memorable work, be it in the spotlight or in a supporting capacity. In fact, it’s a communal spirit that you feel in this music, a spirit that makes you forget your problems and dance or listen closely to the wisdom a song might offer along with an unfailingly sumptuous groove.

Shackrobeat Vol. 1
seems a good descriptive word for Aphrodesia’s sound- it’s rustic and unpretentious, while possessing a certain sturdy charm. There’s plenty to savor here, but with any luck at all the “Vol.1” in the title is indicative that there’s more down the line. Obtain this disc without hesitation, and keep your eyes and ears open for further sounds from the shack.

Buy Shackrobeat Vol. 1

Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.