Live Concert Photography: APAP 2017: The Battle of Santiago with Underground System at DROM 1/7/17
The Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) is a national service, advocacy and membership organization for those within the performing arts — and perhaps more specifically for those, who specialize in “world music.” And along with their annual conference in NYC, they host a festival featuring a wide variety of artists performing within genres both known and relatively obscure to Western ears. Now after catching Paul and the Tall Trees, Lady Wray and Lee Fields and the Expressions — more on that later as I’m still going through the photos — I went to DROM to catch the end of a showcase that featured two very impressive acts, the Toronto, ON-based Afro-Cuban act The Battle of Santiago and the Brooklyn-based Afrobeat/Afropop act The Underground System.
Headlining the night at the was the Brooklyn, NY-based multicultural collective Underground System, which specializes in a decidedly modern take on Afrobeat that draws equally from Fela Kuti, ESG and lately XTC, whom they’ve lately been covering at sets, as well as a dance floor-friendly interpretation of “Bella Ciao,” a Partisan, anti-Fascist, Italian WWII anthem — and along with that, the collective have developed a reputation for an incredibly dynamic live set, which I was lucky to catch earlier this month.
Caption: Underground System performing at DROM earlier this month.
With the release of their first two albums, 2012’s debut full-length Full Colour and their 2013 sophomore effort Followed by Thousands, the Toronto, ON-based collective led by Michael Owen (bass, production) along with a rotating cast of musicians featuring Lyle Crilly (guitar, synths), Reimundo Sosa (percussion, vocals), Magdelys Savigne (percussion, vocals), Netto Brooks (vocals), Isax (sax, flute) and Sty Larcoque (drums), as well as a number of other collaborators and friends, the Canadian collective have been a commercial in their homeland, while receiving a growing profile elsewhere. In fact, Full Colour eventually laded at number 1 on the weekly Canadian college radio International music charts and remained in the national Top 20 charts for four months — with the album landing at number 1 in a number of local markets across Canada, including Guelph and Calgary, while also landing at number 3 on CFRU‘s jazz charts. Critically speaking Full Colour landed on CJSR Edmonton‘s Best of 2012 List and was number 13 on Earshot’s Top 20 for 2012 on the International Charts. The collective’s sophomore effort Followed by Thousands was a critical and commercial hit, with the album becoming the number 1 hit on the weekly Canadian college radio charts for International music on CJSR in Edmonton. while also being at number 5 for two months on the top 20 Earshot charts for International music — and the album broke into the States, reaching number 18 on KALX.
As a result, of their growing profile, the collective has opened for the likes of Cadence Weapon, Saul Williams and Femi Kuti and has played sets at Hillside Festival, Canadian Music Week, NXNE, OCFF, Mundial Montreal, Le Festival Music Multi-Montreal, the Harrison Festival for the Arts, the Small World Music Festival and of course, APAP. This shouldn’t be surprising as the band specializes in an Afro-Cuban sound that draws from both sides of the Atlantic, making a vital connection across the African Diaspora.