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Anitbalas’ Afrobeat Alchemy at the Kimmel


Alchemy is an ancient art that concerns itself with, among other things, the transformation of base metals into gold. Popular recipes included varying proportions of silver, copper, tin, and other substances; not surprisingly these failed to produce authentic nuggets.

Nowhere in the alchemist’s recipe book does one find bari sax (or other necessary brass), snaking bass lines, congas, shakere, funk guitars, and endurance reaching near Samuel L. Jackson levels. All of these were in ample supply when the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra played the Kimmel Center’s Perelman theatre on Thursday.  Follow me after the jump for the full review.

It’s hard to over-estimate how tight Antibalas is live. While the majority of present-day dance music has an electronic foundation Antibalas creates a thick hip magnetizing funk without the aid of laptops or MPCs. Watching ten people organically create such powerful, sophisticated, and danceable music is a rare pleasure.

Antibalas has been at the helm of the afrobeat renaissance and is in large part responsible for the emergence of afro-beat in the new vocabulary of hip-hop. The cyclical fetishes of hip-hop production are well known and are, for the most part, uninspired (e.g. the Indian sarod loop that was in everything for like a year, rapping over Daft punk songs). Antibalas and groups like them have been shining a light on where some of the future’s most vital hip-hop may reside.

The evening’s set included jams on tunes from throughout their five album catalog but mostly from Security [Anti, 2007]. They also threw some new tunes in their set and closed with an atomically funky Fela jam.

Fans of Fela would be proud, in fact, Fela himself would be proud, which should be the only criteria in judging a solid gold afrobeat show.

Interview
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Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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