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Fela would be proud



Essential: "Sanctuary"

The musical legacy of Nigerian legend Fela Kuti is so rich that the impulse to mine it for treasure is eminently understandable. The Brooklyn group Antibalas takes Kuti as a jumping-off point for its own work, crafting a distinctly contemporary American version of Kuti's politically charged Afrobeat sound. "Security" lets bass and sax lead the attack, with the music's stately march thrown off-kilter by the clanging, dissonant percussion of "Beaten Metal" and the full-throated, call-and-response roar of "Filibuster XXX," which recalls Kuti's band Africa 70 at its most powerful. And if the political content of the song, which name-checks Bill Frist and Dick Cheney, is a few months past its sell-by date, it is nonetheless thrilling, and slightly disorienting, to hear lead singer Amayo chanting, Kuti-style, "What is G. . .O. . .P?" The album's lengthy tracks ("Sanctuary" checks in at almost 13 minutes) are daunting for the casual listener, but the CD casts a spell reminiscent in its raw power and political fervor of TV on the Radio's triumphant "Return to Cookie Mountain." [Saul Austerlitz]

Antibalas plays at the Middle East Downstairs on March 31.