Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of Afrobeat godfather and pioneer Fela Kuti‘s tragic and untimely death from AIDS, and in that time Kuti’s influence has managed to loom rather largely over contemporary music from Africa and elsewhere as countless bands have expanded upon the sound and aesthetic that the influential and controversial Nigerian created. And I suspect that if Kuti were alive today, the 78 year old would likely be amazed at the diverse nationalities and ethnicities, who have adopted his sound, aesthetic and message to their own particular situations, while picking up on the larger, global context that Kuti always managed to write about. But if there’s one thing I’m certain that Fela would never have imagined actually existing it would be this — Swedish Afrobeat.
Comprised of Frida Eleonore Winlöf (trumpet), Christopher Ali Thorén (tenor sax), Jonas ‘Finland’ Rönnqvist (alto sax), Fredrik Brändström (keys), Jesper Lundquist (guitar), Tobias Alpadie (guitar), Vilhelm Bromander (bass), Wille Alin (drums), Celso Paco (congas and vocals), Jon Olofsson (percussion), and Mattias Hidemo (claves, fiddle), the twelve-member Stockholm, Sweden-based collective Music is the Weapon may arguably be Sweden’s best (and seemingly only) Afrobeat outfit. Although Sweden isn’t particularly known for a funk scene, as the band’s co-founder Christopher Ali Thorén explains in press notes “We’re not fighting the same fight in Sweden as Fela did in Nigeria, of course, but I feel that in some way it’s political to play this kind of music in clubs here. We give people the experience of big live band playing raw funk. For me it’s an act of resistance all its own.” Of course, as Thorén and the rest of the band have also discovered, their fellow countrymen are starving for Kuti’s particular brand of funk.
The Stockholm-based collective’s latest full-length effort Sweet Choral Motion was released through Fashionpolice Records and from the album’s opening track “Black Hole,” the Swedish collective reveals an inventive take on Fela’s signature sound as the composition employs the use of complex polyrhythm that sounds as though it owes a debt to the Caribbean, enormous horns and an equally complex song structure that would make the legendary Nigerian godfather of the genre proud while gently expanding what contemporary Afrobeat can sound like, as the Swedish act’s sound also seems to employ elements of hip-hop and cosmic funk to the mix.