Lagos by Bus

Without going all Pollyanna/Julie Andrews on you, it truly is a global village we live in. Blues is in Mississippi, Britain, and Mali; bluegrass bands originate in former Soviet republics; and Afrobeat has a prime mover in the Bay Area with Aphrodesia. Afrobeat originated with iconic Nigerian singer/bandleader Fela Kuti, who pioneered the style by combining the horn-laden, churning funk of James Brown with West African sounds. Aphrodesia (more than fifteen musicians and singers listed) aren't dilettantes — they are dedicated, good enough to open for Femi Kuti (a son and musical heir of Fela) on their Nigerian tour (hence the disc's title). The members don't settle for Afrobeat's basics — the chant-like vocals, sparkling guitar riffs, dramatically exultant horns, and insistent funk-flavored rhythms; they up the ante by bringing some personal touches to the table. The pensive, Peter Gunn-goes-to-Africa instrumental "White Elephant" has jazz overtones, especially with Charlie Gurke's sly, bluesy baritone saxophone solo, while "Bus Driver" and "World Under Fire" are subtly supplemented with reggae rhythms. Toward its conclusion, "Agayu" powerfully builds up steam in a manner recalling both electric-era Miles Davis and Fela at their respective bests. The only downside of Lagos is the choral vocals occasionally sound a tad ... anemic. Aside from that, this dandy disc serves as a tidy teaser for the rave-up that Aphrodesia is no doubt capable of live.


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