Since genre godfather Fela Kuti's death in 1997, a void has opened in Afrobeat that's been only partially filled by New York's Antibalas. The 17-strong Najite Olokun Prophecy further eases the pain caused by Kuti's departure with vigorous orchestral firepower. Nigerian master drummer Najite Agindotan studied under Kuti and later moved to Los Angeles, where he mingled with some of the city's top jazz players (Horace Tapscott, Billy Higgins, and others). Plug Research boss Allen Avenessian saw Najite's group perform and decided to deviate from his label's usual left-field electronica output to issue Africa Before Invasion.
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The opening track, "Showtime," establishes the tone with a relentlessly buoyant rhythm that's both spiritually and physically uplifting. The massed horns, kinetic hand drums, and male-and-female call-and-response vocals pay homage to Fela's formula, but NOP is even tighter than its predecessors. "Honesty," a mellower, more fluid track, suggests that even superhuman musicians need to ease back a bit, and "Aorieo" brings in some seductive R&B vamping and memorable organ and sax solos. Near the end of the cut, a deep tribal-funk percussion jam materializes, ripe for sampling. Sure, this music is repetitive -- like hot sex sometimes is. You got a problem with that?