Najite Olokun Prophecy Africa Before Invasion

The leader of this 16-piece ensemble is Najite Agindotan, a West African percussionist, dancer and theatre performer who studied closely with Fela Kuti. The latter’s influence is unsurprisingly strong on this five-track release, but outside of the traditional Afrobeat rhythms and talk-sung vocals, the Najite Olokun Prophecy have cultivated their own sound. The album’s lyrical thrust is on the subject of Pan-African unity and it’s executed in a romantic, rather than a revolutionary, spirit. English declarations of "I love Africa” and "Africa is my home” in the title track might come off as ideologically soft to fans of Fela’s militancy, but their sentiments are well-justified as Agindotan elaborates his visions of plurality and non-violence in the pre-colonial life of the continent. At the same time, the music on Africa Before Invasion seeks diasporic dalliance through its embracement of straight-up, African-American jazz. The piano solos by Nate Morgan and Charley on "Showtime” and "Lasisi” are free form and inspired — qualities shared by the congas and talking drums, but spoken in a different language. The juxtaposition of these performances opens up a double-dimensionality of ancient-future, African cultural continuity throughout the album. Describing it like this might sound more like Stephen Hawking than Afrobeat, but I think that Fela would probably approve. (SoFa Disk)