Saturday, July 26, 2008

Aphrodesia at the Shrine-July 23, 2008

(Photos by Abraham Amkpa)

Aphrodesia proved why they're the hottest Afrobeat band on the West Coast Wednesday night when they threw down at the Shrine in Harlem. The eleven-piece ensemble out of San Francisco brought their funky afro-grooves to the Shrine stage on the front end of a nation-wide tour, playing eighteen shows in sixteen cities.

Aphrodesia has a unique sound that is accentuated by female lead vocalists Lara Maykovich and Maya Dorn whose beautiful voices glide over a ferocious rhythm section and heavy horns. In a genre dominated by bombastic, male frontmen, Maykovich and Dorn send a female empowerment message that resonates with the entire band's anti-establishment message.

Sounds from all over the African continent as well as the diaspora are abundantly present in Aphrodesia's music which comes as no surprise as they toured across West Africa performing in Ghana, Togo, Benin, and with Femi Kuti at the Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria. They celebrate the heterogeneous nature of Afrobeat composition incorporating elements of highlife, dub, Zimbabwean trance, soukous, and jazz. One of the most prevalent themes of their music is a dirty southern blues funk vibe furnished by guitarists David Sartore and Mike Abraham.

Following in the tradition of Afrobeat creator Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Aphrodesia never hesitates to take a political stand. Many of their song lyrics have a strong anti-establishment message such as Bus Driver, a song that speaks out against America's foreign oil dependancy. They have also used their live shows as forums for political action and dialogue extensively including a nation-wide voter registration tour in 2004, multiple benefit concerts for causes such as AIDS Prevention, Tsunami Relief, and Anti-War demonstrations.

Aphrodesia has one of the most inventive, distinctly unique sounds of any Afrobeat band in the country. With a dangerously groovtastic rhythm section, a tight horn section, and beautiful female vocalists upon which to gaze, they've got the best stage presence of any band you'll ever see live. Their latest studio album, Lagos by Bus, came out in November of 2007 to widespread acclaim. Although they're based in San Francisco, they tour across the country regularly, so don't miss them next time they come to a city or town near you.

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