Chicago Afrobeat Project works to bring back a forgotten genre

Afrobeat is a sound that is regaining popularity around the world, with the help of one group in particular-Chicago Afrobeat Project-working to bring this musical genre out of obscurity.

“Afrobeat is based on many different musical genres,” said Kevin Ford, the band’s keyboardist. “It’s based on funk, rock, jazz, Afro-Cuban and a whole lot of other genres.”

The genre takes the variety of musical influences and settles them into a hypnotic, dance-compelling pulse. The style became popular in the early 1970s by an African musician named Fela Ransome Anikulapo of Nigeria. Anikulapo wanted to change the musical landscape and stop the British music invasion in Africa.

The band is composed of nine members: Ford (keyboards), Graham Czach (bass), Angelo Garcia (tenor saxophone), David Glines (guitar), Marshall Greenhouse (drum set), Garrick Smith (baritone saxophone), Mark Thomson (trombone), Danjuma Gaskin (percussion) and George Jones (percussion). The members have been together for five years.

“The best part of being in this band,” Ford said, “is making the music, that we get to play a fresh style of music is really a lot of fun. We have different music backgrounds, all of us, but we’re able to make great music together.” Each member of Chicago Afrobeat Project comes from a different music background, which they like to incorporate into the band’s music.

“We like to stretch the style of the music,” Ford said. “We are able to be innovative while at the same time remain in the music style.”

Even though the band is known as the Chicago Afrobeat Project, the members are from all over the country, including St. Louis.

“We do have Cards fans in our group,” Ford said, “but I have to say that I hope the Cubs make it to the series, because I have tickets if they do.”

Chicago Afrobeat Project has just completed and produced its second album, (A) Move to Silent Unrest (CAbP Music, 2007). The album incorporates all of the different musical backgrounds of the members, while remaining true to the genre’s roots.

“Right now we’re just promoting the CD,” Ford said. “We’re hopefully trying to go on tour in Europe and Africa. But right now we’re just focused on the current tour and CD.”

Be on the lookout: Afrobeat is making a comeback, and it is being led by the diligent, hard-working and talented Chicago Afrobeat Project.

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