Cool Facts About Performing Arts: Afrobeat

The journey of rhythm is like water. It is a building block of life, to make and sustain it, and water takes many forms, traveling, growing, changing, and converging with other water sources to create incredible phenomena such as the Okavango Delta in Botswana or Florida’s very own Everglades. In its own way, rhythm works to sustain life. Some would argue rhythm is life, taking many forms, traveling, growing, changing and converging to create new and impressive musical genres.

One such phenomena of rhythm happened in the 1970s when a Nigerian musician named Fela Kuti drew on traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music, converging these polyrhythms with American jazz, funk, chants and call-and-response lyricism. In the 1960s, Kuti and other socially conscious artists used their art as a means to carry messages of social criticism to inspire social change. Challenges to the status quo and political injustice imbedded in the lyrics, creating a unique, gigantic, big band African-drums-meet-American-jazz sound whose infectious, horn-filled thumping traveled around the globe in a new brand of music that Kuti dubbed Afrobeat.

Afrobeat spread, and one of the greatest American-based Afrobeat bands today, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, teams up with African soul-and-R&B artist Zap Mama for a rare appearance together on the Ferguson stage on Thursday night. Afrobeat is also enjoying a resurrection in the UK, erupting from the underground into mainstream mixes.

We are really excited to present Antibalas and Zap Mama on Thursday night, bringing this ultra-fun, enormous, funky African sound to Tampa Bay for long-time fans and, hopefully, new audiences who may best appreciate the life-giving joy of Afrobeat by experiencing it—like a long drink of cool, cool water.

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