REVIEW San Francisco's 11-piece Aphrodesia ensemble joins a growing number of stateside acts embracing and expanding on Fela Kuti's funky Afrobeat legacy. Like local comrades Albino and New York's Antibalas, Aphrodesia use West African sounds as a springboard for pan-global rhythmic remixes. The group's founding vocalists Lara Maykovich and Maya Dorn studied music in Ghana and Cuba, and their songs authentically incorporate African language and folkloric traditions. In 2006, Aphrodesia sealed their mission with a full-band pilgrimage to and performance at Kuti's New Afrika Shrine club in Lagos, Nigeria, a journey that inspired their second album, Lagos by Bus (Cyberset).
The album opens with "Virgin of the Sun God," sung in Shona and English and grounded with earthy mbira plucking and powerful horn-section blasts. Like nueva Africana artist Zap Mama, Maykovich and Dorn layer their voices in rainbow harmonies and waterfall rushes that add a distinctive female aura to the male-dominated Afrobeat milieu.
Things pick up to rush-hour-in-Lagos pace on "Holy Ghost Invasion," a funky, chaotic track that showcases anticonsumerist preacher Rev. Billy. It's clear by the recording's sixth track, the Yoruba-inspired "Ochun Mi," that the band members love playing with and off one another in African music's joyful and politically conscious spirit. "World Under Fire," the full-length's nearly eight-minute tour de force closer, ping-pongs through multiple rhythmic changes, linguistic acrobatics, and a sensational percussion breakdown that fans the song's flames. Judging from the sounds bouncing off this disc, you'll be in for an exciting ride when you hop on Aphrodesia's bus this week.
APHRODESIA With Brass Menazeri, the Indigo Belly Dance, and Pleasuremaker. Fri/21, 8:30 p.m., $14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1421, www.theindependentsf.com