While many entertainers who dare share their political beliefs are admonished to "shut up and sing," others make activism an inherent part of their art. This was the case for African bandleader Fela Kuti, who married polyrhythmic, jazzy funk music with confrontational screeds against the sociopolitical powers oppressing his people in the late '60s, and ended up creating a new genre: Afrobeat. Western rock musicians like David Byrne and Brian Eno depoliticized Afrobeat when applying it to their own music, though the destabilizing adventurousness of Kuti's music made anything it rubbed up against sound revolutionary. Kuti disciple Antibalas puts the politics back into Afrobeat on its latest album, Security, peppering long, probing compositions with denunciations of the Bush administration.
With seven songs lasting about an hour, Security can be a challenging listen without a party and a packed dance floor. Only the cinematic lead-off track, "Beaten Metal," is immediately accessible; two songs drift past the 10-minute mark, and two others hang at around eight minutes. While Security never veers into directionless jamming—the longest song, "Filibuster XXX," is one of the most hypnotic tracks—Antibalas seems like it's better experienced onstage than in the relatively narrow confines of a studio.
Still, Security makes a much stronger statement musically than with Bush-bashing lyrics that likely will end up preaching to the choir. A self-described "collective" without a leader, Antibalas is a living advertisement for the power of equality that uses the universal language of hot beats and killer grooves. Political rhetoric is fine, but blue jeans and pop music really pave the way for revolution.