[21 January 2008]
The influence of Fela Kuti continues to be felt today in the music of Aphrodesia, a large ensemble highlighted by two female vocalists, a jazzy horn section, and some very tight rhythms. For a group of predominantly Caucasian folks from San Francisco, their Afrobeat often possesses such a deep and funky groove that it’s easy to find yourself transported to 1970s Nigeria. Much more recently, Aphrodesia actually made a pilgrimage to that birthplace of their chosen music. The CD’s title, Lagos by Bus, should be taken literally. The mementos from their trip to the Nigerian metropolis of Lagos are scattered all throughout the band’s songs. Most obviously, the reggae-tinged and slow-grooving “Bus Driver” is a tribute to the man who ferried Aphrodesia around during their African odyssey. Most of what rubbed off on the group, though, comes pouring out of their best songs, like the extended and upbeat grooves on “Ochun Mi” and the especially funky “Agayu”. Occasionally, Aphrodesia get just a tad cheesy. Whenever they stray (even briefly) into jam band territory, the illusion of being in Africa is broken. For the better part of Lagos by Bus, however, we are carried along on a sweaty, dusty, steamin’, red-hot ride through the heart and soul of Afrobeat.