Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra at the Warhol | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra at the Warhol

click to enlarge Million-man band: Antibalas
Million-man band: Antibalas
When the Brooklyn-based million-piece (OK, 14-piece) Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra formed almost a decade ago, the globalized musical posse was malleable, yet definable: "Afrobeat," "Fela-influenced," "Afro-Latin," "politically rhythmic." These words tagged and followed Antibalas, and the group -- started, in 1998, and led by brilliant saxophonist Martin Perna -- found a distinct power in that tradition.

With records like Liberation Afrobeat Vol. 1 and Talkatif, the group proved itself not just well-versed in the music of Fela Kuti and his 1970s West African musical descendents, but prolific at its composition and arrangement. A glance at the label rosters Antibalas has graced -- electronic experimentalists Ninja Tune, funk rebels Daptone Records and hip-hop jam label Ropeadope -- showed that Antibalas had a lot more on its collective mind than some '70s throwback or Fela-tribute act.

So one shouldn't be surprised to hear Security, Antibalas' new album, featuring the likes of "I.C.E.," an eight-minute, long-tone workout of clanging metal, sustained trombones and broken-beat live percussion that might make Bugz in the Attic or 4Hero shed a tear. Or "Hilo," an impressionistic wash of slow, chugging rhythms and vintage '70s organs, like a Pacific cruise operated by Ken Kesey.

There are still the political anthems, like "War Hero" and the frantic floor-filler "Filibuster XXX," possibly the most danceable song ever to namedrop Bill Frist and include the group chorus, "G.O.P, G.O.P." But Security shows an Orchestra more willing than ever to take its formidable mountain of sound and stretch it in every direction.

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra with Chin Chin and DJ Pete Spynda. 8 p.m. Thu., May 3. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Side. (Outdoor show, weather permitting.) $12. 412-237-8300 or

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