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Albino!

In the early Sixties when Fela Kuti created Afrobeat — a deeply rhythmic, horn-dressed blend of funk, jazz, and African highlife — he may not have imagined what it would one day become. Even at his peak as a pop star, he was more concerned with serving as a voice for Nigeria's poor, making him an enemy of the state and a subject of frequent harassment. But his powerful, propulsive music has persevered through the decades and at the hands of countless imitators. Berkeley Afrobeat ensemble Albino! took more than a few cues from Kuti, all the way down to his politics: Songs like "Democracy," "Puppet Boy," and "No Face Enemy" deliver indictments of governmental corruption. But even less subtle than the band's message is its music, a spring wound so tight it grooves from one phrase to the next with the resolve of a locomotive. While that's easy enough to replicate in a modern studio, Albino! is the real deal; the six-year-old group's second album, Peralta House, released in May, was recorded live with all eleven members in the same room at the same time, and its boiling drums, striking guitars, and swirling horns never miss a beat.
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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