Funky (African) Stuff

Charleston City Paper | October 3, 2006
“Anyone can learn a beat, but to actually play it with the right feeling and type of groove takes effort,” says Marshall Greenhouse, drummer and founding member of the Chicago Afrobeat Project.

The group’s moniker came as a deliberate attempt to convey the connection between Chicago’s diverse musical culture with the openness to experiment in the Afrobeat genre. Their newly-released, 10-song, self-titled album features a slew of hot world-jazz players as guests and makes the case for the American/Nigerian funk-beat connection.

Marshall was particularly influenced by a New York-based group called Antibalas, who reproduced the sounds and rhythms of the genre’s founder, Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti.

“We wanted to tie the roots of Afrobeat with the urban sounds of a forward-thinking Chicago experimental music scene. We’ve been playing out for three years solid, trying to mix sounds and make people dance. It’s challenging because it’s not all like anything else going on. You have to be creative and improvise. It’s also dance music, which is the best part.”

The genre of Afrobeat was pioneered in the 1960s and ’70s by Kuti, who released dozens of albums over 40 years. Rhythmically, the genre is rooted in drum-and-horn-driven West African “juju” and “highlife” music, and African-American funk and jazz-fusion.

“Basically, just being a drummer drew me to this music,” says Marshall, who studied jazz in his school years. “When I heard Afrobeat, I loved it because it basically mixed all of the American kinds of music that I likes with the African stuff. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do.”

The touring lineup includes Greenhouse, guitarist Dave Glines, keyboardist Kevin Ford, trombonist Mark Thomson, sax players Garick Smith and Angelo Garcia, bassist Antonio Carella, percussionist Danjuma, and other guest musicians and dancers.

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