This article originally appeared on Music Africa.
by Oris Aigbokhaevbolo
Chicago Afrobeat Project is set to release its fifth album, What Goes Up, on 15 September. The album features Tony Allen on each of its 10 tracks.
The initial plan, according to the band, was to record a couple of songs with the Fela collaborator and co-creator of the Afrobeat sound. That changed with a declaration from the drummer.
“We’re not recording two tracks,” he said. “We’re recording 10 tracks for an album.” With those words work towards What Goes Up began. The collaboration has now yielded what the band calls their “most musically expansive album to date”. The album, says the band, is the first in North America to feature Tony Allen on every track.
Chicago Afrobeat Project was formed in 2002. Previously, the band, which comprises diverse artists interested in West African rhythms, was built upon the realisation that “mixing Afrobeat with Chicago house, indie rock, hiphop, or jazz opened new avenues for experimentation”. Over the past 15 years, the band has embarked on several tours and recorded four albums.
In 2013, the band released its fourth album and began working with Allen. The Paris-based master drummer was flown to the US for the recording sessions. “When the dust had settled over the two years of sessions between 2013 and 2014,” the artists making up Chicago Afrobeat Project, “walked away with 14 tracks, 10 of which are included on the September 2017 release, What Goes Up,” the band said.
Besides the novelty of using Allen, the forthcoming album also sees the band featuring more vocalists throughout, a departure from the instrumental spine of the group’s past work. Oranmiyan, Ugochi, Akenya and Kiara Lanier are some of the vocalists included in the record.
In recording What Goes Up, the band said it favoured the Fela approach, employing “lyrics [that] are politically charged, except that vocalists address social and racial injustices, ecological crises, freedom in expression and disillusionment in the democratic process”.
True to its stated approach, the album’s first single ‘Race Hustle’ was inspired by real-life events. “It was 2014. The number of unarmed black people killed by cops didn’t seem to end,” the band said on Facebook. “The Michael Brown killing in Ferguson was an immediate catalyst for the lyrics, written and performed by JC of the JC Brooks Band.
“But the tune isn’t just about those murders. It’s about people of colour feeling like they have to work twice as hard for the same thing. About feeling like they have to be over-the-top respectful just to preserve their lives. And yet, they are still disproportionately exposed to violence from the police.”
What Goes Up is out on 15 September. Pre-order the album on Amazon here.
Listen to ‘Race Hustle’ below.