With a globetrotting 20-year career as a voice for the people across four decades of political and societal upheaval from the late ‘90s to today, Antibalas celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a stark return to their Williamsburg roots on its latest Daptone Records studio album, Fu Chronicles.
Pre-gentrified Williamsburg serves as the backdrop for Fu Chronicles – voyaging back to the early days when the 12-piece Afrobeat ensemble and revered soul label Daptone Records spawned out of lead singer Duke Amayo’s kung fu dojo. A senior master of the Jow Ga Kung Fu School of martial arts, Amayo along with Antibalas founder/baritone saxophonist Martín Perna guide listeners through an epic journey of where kung fu ingeniously intersects with Afrobeat on Fu Chronicles.
Fu Chronicles transports listeners to where universal equilibrium and indefinite possibilities unite within a dream world of a child’s limitless mind. The transcendent long-form Afrobeat compositions decolonize our psyches through movements traversing with melodies to realign us with a purpose of finding balance in our coexistence. The fiery 12-piece Antibalas ensemble – widely renowned as one of America’s fiercest live bands – along with an additional five musicians transform Amayo’s opus into hypnotic and invigorating compositions with singular rhythms of resistance.
The album opens with Amenawon, in honour of Amayo’s late mother whose middle name was Amenawon (she is depicted on the cover of Fu Chronicles standing as tall as the Statue Of Liberty carrying a baby). With the literal meaning translating to “may the water you will drink, not pass you by,” the composition speaks to rain water washing away pollution and the unveiling of government lies. Amayo pays homage to the Yoruba River goddess, Yomoja, whose healing powers can be accessed by invoking her name. Water is further a symbol in kung fu reflecting one’s ability to adapt to any situation.
Lai Lai (meaning Never, or Forever) is a gate into setting intentions and following through. In tribute to the resistance of the indigenous Africans and their sustainable practices, Amayo is spearheading a green school project in Ikeja (the capitol of Lagos) featuring a rooftop garden with rainwater harvesting and solar panels M.T.T.T. Pt. 1 and 2 (meaning Mother Talker Tic Toc) dives back in time to when Gabe Roth and members of Antibalas studied with Amayo at his dojo in the late ‘90s. Initially composed in 1999, M.T.T.T. Pt. 1 and 2 remains a scorching centerpiece of Antibalas’ live repertoire. Fu Chronicles is the first time it appears on tape. Amayo opens the track referencing the African proverb, “The Truth and the Morning, becomes Daylight with Time.” M.T.T.T. Pt. 1 and 2 is about cause and effect, and the Karmic nature of time.
A soundtrack for dreamers and activists, Fight Am Finish invokes the spirits of Seshat (ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing) and Ogun (Yoruba Pantheon of industry, technology, and war) as a means to rebuild our world with wisdom. Fight Am Finish prepares one for daily battles, offering encouragement to be steadfast in the dreams you have. Upon the start of Fight Am Finish, it’s on and get ready to rumble. Don’t ever let go!
Koto focuses on resilience and how one can overcome any predicament. Upon being evicted from his space the Afro-Spot Temple due to acute gentrification in Williamsburg, Amayo brings to life the sense of falling into a hole and emerging even stronger. Koto further features two lovers, Otok and Regina on the run from the underworld.
An illustrator by trade, Amayo depicts Antibalas taking over a NYC building and converting it into a Solar Temple on the album cover of Fu Chronicles. The Avenue of the Americas turns into Indigenous Way with his mother towering over downtown as a symbol of the future reclaiming the indigenous right. A house of solution, Antibalas promotes the technology of tomorrow with Solar Temple teaching the ways of kung fu, indigenous dance, arts and tradition, quantum physics, universal energies, music, and more.
2. Lai Lai
3. MTTT, Pt. 1 & 2
4. Fight Am Finish
6. Fist of Flowers