In the 10 years since its birth from Chicago's underground art and loft party scene, Chicago Afrobeat Project has performed coast to coast at clubs and festivals across the United States.
2012 marks the release of "Nyash Up!" the band’s fourth official album project and its best sounding, best produced release so far. Over the years the group has defined and redefined their signature version of a
frobeat. Their latest work is reaching into new territories incorporating elements of hip-hop, orchestra-like musical arrangement, and exciting stylistic exploration touching on rock, jazz and funk. The 8-piece group is established as one of the top bands in the afrobeat world.
Afrobeat has succeeded in establishing itself as a wide reaching genre with groups all over the world performing their take on the music first pioneered by Fela Kuti. The success of the Broadway musical, Fela! (and its recent take to the road) has made afrobeat a widely-known sound. Elements of the music are pushing their way further into more diverse and mainstream outlets with a widening array of successful artists (including pop and major label groups) drawing influence from it.
Chicago Afrobeat Project has risen among afrobeat groups after emerging as one of the first nationally touring American bands to take the sound to the masses. Over the years the band has mastered a sound that successfully weaves the uniqueness of the Chicago music scene with a distinct western-influenced Nigerian style of music. In 2012, the group recently performed on stage with Seun Kuti (son of the late Fela Kuti), featured Sahr (the original actor portraying Fela in the Broadway musical) and members of the Brooklyn afrobeat Antibalas. and in the past with artists such as Bill Kreutzman of the Grateful Dead, Jeff Parker of Tortoise, Steve Kimmock, Paul Wertico, Howard Levy, and many others.
Chicago Afrobeat Project takes this immense momentum wherever they travel. The band's reputation as delivering a stellar live performance translates to group's new "Nyash Up!" album as well, with critics already clamoring that it's the groups best studio record to date.
The eight-member CAbP will be joined onstage by artist Kelli Becker, sharing their fiery, danceable afrobeat sound, a Nigerian-influenced blend of jazz and funk. During their DubuqueFest performance, expect to hear predominantly original music, along with songs from their new record, Nyash UP! The band has released three previous albums: a self-titled album (2005), (A) Move to Silent Unrest (2007), and Off the Grid (2008).
Chicago Afrobeat Project guitarist David Glines says, “We have taken the approach of playing afrobeat versions of artists we admire on Nyash UP! Every track on the new record is a cover – albeit a very open interpretation of the song.” Click here to listen to a track from the new album, a mash-up of “Just Like That” by Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, along with Radiohead’s “I Might Be Wrong.”
Lyrics are penned by band member Squairblaq, with some phrases in pidgin English or the African language of Yoruba. “All of our lyrics reflect issues that matter to us,” says Glines. “It’s impossible to write any other way. Squair is responsible for most of the lyrics on our new record, and in one track especially he points out some of the difficulties the middle class is experiencing in America. On another we draw attention to the injustice of war and those fighting on the frontlines. The genre itself is steeped in a tradition of political and social commentary, and we are extending that tradition.”
Chicago Afrobeat Project creates music as a collaborative team effort. Glines says, “More often than not, we begin writing collectively with one person beginning a line, then another, and another… until finally we’ve settled into the basics of a groove. We usually record this composition during a session or two, and then follow it up with one or two people working independently on the song to add new parts and possibly rearrange the song. Every now and again we have someone bring a completely written song to the band, but it is more of a collaborative process than anything.”
“I believe this process is one of the things that has kept us going for nearly 10 years – everyone contributes. Everyone has skin in the game so to speak. All of us have formal training in music at some point in our careers. Some studied music at college, and all of us have been performing on the scene for such a long time that the learning comes through experience. And we’re of course all still learning.”
Afrobeat gets a new voice on "Nyash UP!" as Chicago Afrobeat Project reinterprets the music of Radiohead, Fela Kuti, Fugazi, Ceu, System of a Down, Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, 808 State, Talking Heads, and the Vandermark 5.
Layers of rhythms and melodies interlock on each musical piece, swirling the group's signature sound into an even deeper, funky afrobeat stew. Hip-hop, jazz and near symphonic influences are prominent on "Nyash Up!" but the album's afrobeat sentiment is center stage. Nearly half the tracks feature vocals -- an addition from previous studio releases. From commentary about the war on the middle class to an exploration into the meaning of freedom, the album's vibe twists and turns as much as a Fela Kuti horn solo.
- I Just Might Be Wrong Like That (Radiohead / Fela Kuti)
- Slippery People (Talking Heads)
- Pacific (808 State)
- Other Cuts (Vandermark 5)
- B.Y.O.B. (System of a Down)
- Roda (Ceu)
- Colonial Waiting Room Mentality (Fugazi / Fela Kuti)
- Inner City Blues Makes Ya Wanna Holler (Marvin Gaye)
- DazeD & Confused (Led Zeppelin)