The Afromotive - Scare Tactics
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The Afromotive
Scare Tactics
Harmonized Records (

There's been quite a resurgent interest in afrobeat music recently. The Fela Kuti-created blend of African rhythms, jazz and horn-heavy soul/funk proved to have staying power after Fela's 1997 death, whether his successors have chosen to fully embrace his swaggering political and cultural stances or not. It's mainly the groove that makes afrobeat what it is, and The Afromotive (who, interestingly, are based in Asheville, NC rather than a large urban center like most of their peers) deliver on that count. Their drummer plays like he's got extra limbs, their bass, guitar and percussion dig in with steady intensity, their keyboard player punctuates and solos with sounds that are more 1970's Africa than 2008 America and their horn section is a blazing marvel. Plus they've got a front man who hails from Ivory Coast, plays a mean djembe and sings authoritatively and bilingually. And since this is afrobeat, the instrumental stretches have to carry as much weight as the vocals.

That they do, and even when the words, music and overall attitude are as consciously Fela-esque as they are on "Lies" and "Red E Yo," the band stakes a claim with a sound that's leaner and more to the point than many afrobeat outfits. My ears even caught a guitar solo, something almost unheard of in afrobeat, and a couple of brief instrumentals that buck the longer-is-better viewpoint that prevailed in Fela's day and came dangerously close to becoming de rigeur after his death (though some extra length would have made the very Afro-centric end track "Doni Doni" even better). So while this is a band that doesn't wander far off the afrobeaten path, they're definitely treading their own and doing it very well. - Tom Orr

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