Chicago Afrobeat Project | 12.13 | IL

Words by: Mitchell Bander | Images by: Chris Monaghan

Chicago Afrobeat Project :: 12.13.08 :: The Morse Theatre :: Chicago, IL

Chicago Afrobeat Project :: 12.13 :: Chicago
The Chicago Afrobeat Project, like the city itself, is a stew of origins. Mainly, there is the deliberate rhythms of African origin that provide the background for layers of American-refined interpretations of roots music. To only think of this band as an Afrobeat act would miss much of the creative input from many of the eight band members.

The group starts with two drummers, with Danjuma Gaskin adhering slightly more to African drumming traditions, keeping the beat steady with congas and various percussion tools. He keeps it simple, something complimented by his counterpart's full kit jazz drumming. The time and pace are properly African but they take the liberty of filling up the space with sounds more rooted in the African-American derived genres of jazz and blues. And given that Afrobeat is influenced by rock & roll, it makes sense that an Afrobeat project based in Chicago would solidify that African-American influence even further. The drumming may not be as dominant as Chicago's Occidental Brothers or the Kenyan/American group Extra Golden, but it allowed a plethora of musical styles to surface throughout CAbP's two sets.

The next most noticeable element of CAbP's sound is the heavy input from keyboardist Kevin Ford's Hammond and Wurlitzer. The sound is fully electric and constantly walking the line between early psychedelic rock and a sparse, quick jabbing of the keys reminiscent of the vibes and other metallic objects in traditional African music. If there is one sound that is inseparable from the music of Chicago Afrobeat Project it is Ford's keyboards. When he would sit out during songs there was a discernable element missing from the mix.

Chicago Afrobeat Project :: 12.13 :: Chicago
Although not part of the sound, dancers Tosha Alston and Ebony Tolliver reminded us just where every note came from. The long forgotten fact that all music stems from some aspect of ritual was warmly celebrated again at The Morse Theatre. Even though there was no harvest or coronation to celebrate, the dancers treated us to a visual jubilation of sorts, and the crowd did their best to follow suit. At points, the music was even set up to showcase their exuberance - a smart move by the group.

CAbP enlists three horn players - Angelo Garcia (tenor saxophone), Garrick Smith (baritone saxophone) and Mark Thomson (trombone) – whose playing reminded me of an upbeat New Orleans jazz section and really emphasized that this is an American ensemble. The players were able to compliment the rhythm section without being redundant and added a very palatable variety to the mix. Nowhere did I hear a note, melody or progression coming from this section that distracted me from the main theme. Plus they were ready to add vocal volume whenever the group unleashed a chant such as, "You can't go to doctor cause you're uninsured," from the topical "March Of The Uninsured."

One aspect that sets them apart from most American bands is the burying of the string section. Made up of electric guitar and bass, they are strictly a rhythm section save for the few instances when guitarist David Glines settled in for a riff that was more heady than crunchy, and more restrained than the typical noodle one might expect from a band with world influences playing a two set night. Still, they brought the fun without being silly and even managed to slip in a Fugazi cover without missing a beat. The Chicago Afrobeat Project is cruising right now with the release of new EP, Off The Grid. There is no projecting the success of this band because they are already there. What will be useful prognosticating is where the band takes this project from here.

Chicago Afrobeat Project tour dates available here.

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[Published on: 1/23/09]

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megustaphish starstarstarstarstar Fri 1/23/2009 03:40PM
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Very taleted group. i saw these guys at the green apple concert in chicago and they will get you dancing. if you live in the midwest i would highly recomend checking these guys out.

babywood Fri 1/23/2009 06:45PM
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Come check em out in April at Some Kind of Jam 4!


April 24-26, 2009

Kempton, PA

(20 miles north of Reading)

25 Bands

2 Stages

Outdoor & Indoor

A full weekend of camping & music

$40 Presale tix


The Breakfast

Chicago Afrobeat Project

Splintered Sunlight


Post Junction



The Big Dirty


The Hustle

Free Grass Union


MJ Project

Mason Porter

Dr. Ketchup

Beaucoup Blue

The Hoppin’ John Orchestra

Wandering Root

The Pluckin’ Grassholes

The Lumber Truck

Pa McClenny’s Downtown Washtub Losers

The Lawn Boys

Anthony Fiumano and the Medicine Chest

Mystery Fyre

The Backroad

Tomm Dunn * Kelly Carvin *Kyle Morgan * Erik from Baltimore* Mike Narvaez

johnnygoff Sat 1/24/2009 08:07AM
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i saw these cats about 4 years ago in syracuse. They were pretty young at the time and were pretty decent. Also, I'd pay $40 just to see Jimkata alone @ "Some kind of Jam 4". ^^^^

mattguff9 Sun 1/25/2009 05:45PM
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i danced my rear end off to these guys last year. I highly recommend this band! Very cohesive and there is lots of layers of sound so you can choose your groove.

groovatronics starstarstarstar Sun 1/25/2009 07:23PM
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dude that west ganji song up there is fadeeking rocking!

and yes, that fest looks quite interesting too.

groovatronics Sun 1/25/2009 07:24PM
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...far more enticing than bonaroo...

babywood Mon 1/26/2009 08:05AM
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Stop supporting corporate music festival.

Start supporting grass-roots musical extravaganzas.

Join the revolution.

afrobeatyo starstarstarstar Mon 1/26/2009 03:30PM
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chicago afrobeat is a great idea and they are really starting to show some rthym and the horns are strong,there show would be even stronger if they added dj loo dooben too the act and represent real chicago afrobeat,i seen that guy open up for umps on new years and heard the real raw sound that afrobeat can be, it would be a perfect fit, what dj la spam does for the spam allstars this dj loo dooben can do the same and take them to another level.keep on keeping cabp yall got a good thing going on

DAMONCORY starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/27/2009 08:43AM
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Great band! Looking forward to Bella Madre Fest!

blas Tue 1/27/2009 06:42PM
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a sensational recording of this show is available for free download on their front page of their website. dang good