It takes a village to record an album. That much rings true for Chicago Afrobeat: the group enlisted the help of the legendary drummer Tony Allen and a score of musicians to create their latest, titled What Goes Up - due for release September 29th.
Motivated by the members’ admiration for Afrobeat and Fela Kuti, the group set out to invite Allen to Chicago for a series of events “as part of the musician’s hope of passing along his knowledge and experience to the next generation.” In an official statement, keyboard player Kevin Ford recalled the instant chemistry shared between the group and Allen, who is the co-founder of Afrobeat and Kuti’s former drummer. “You don’t need to talk about it, you start playing and you just click.”
It’s safe to say that the feeling is mutual. The next time they met up to collaborate, Allen recorded not one but 10 tracks for the group’s album. The result was What Goes Up, Chicago Afrobeat’s most musically expansive release to date.
Wanting to take Afrobeat to a different level and give the album a distinct Chicago sound, the group also pulled in a slew of the city’s vocalists and lyricists. Musicians like JC Brooks, Kiara Lanier, Legit, Akenya, Ugochi Nwaogwugwu, Oranmiyan and Rico Sisney/Maggie Vagle successfully give What Goes Up its blues, hip-hop, soul and African emigre sounds.
Tracks like “I No Know” and “No Bad News,” for instance, are mellow and seething with soul influence. On the other hand, “Afro Party” is identified by “super-funky drums, cascading guitar and cosmic keys.” While “Afro Party” calls for a celebration, “Race Hustle” and “Marker 48” talk about real-life issues close to Afrobeat spirits, namely racial and environmental justice.
Restraint and highly creative at the same time,” What Goes Up offers a wild ride into the world of Afrobeat.
While waiting for What Goes Up to come out on September 29th, revisit our profile on Tony Allen here.