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Album Review: Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra by Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
Very Good, Based on 3 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Only one absolute exists in music: there is no beat so good that Tony Allen can’t make it better. Pushing 80 and in no way slowing down, the last few years have seen the original master drummer and Afrobeat founder release another of his own solo albums while popping up on albums with artists located everywhere from London to Rio. Now, he’s crossed the Atlantic once again, playing with musicians from all over Haiti, including members of top local groups like Lakou Mizik and the Yizra’El Band.
This energetic, sometimes chaotic fusion set results from a visit that Africa’s finest percussionist – the Afrobeat hero Tony Allen – made to Haiti to perform in the main square of Port Au Prince alongside Haitian and western musicians. It wasn’t an easy gig – the band had just five days to rehearse, and the concert was not recorded as planned. These recordings were made at rehearsals, with overdubs added later, and are dominated by chanting Haitian vocals and massed percussion, driven on by Allen’s subtle, always understated playing.
The eponymous title accurately reflects this 2014 superjam, staged in Port-au-Prince with Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen mixing it with the elite of local groups in what proves an almost seamless fusion. Allen and his core group lay down Afrobeat’s familiar loping grooves, and Haitian musicians weigh in with call-and-response chants and invocations from the vodou tradition. Less expected is the strain of futurism, with France’s Olaf Hund adding sinuous synth lines and Glasgow-born guitarist Mark Mulholland alternating between chattering James Brown riffs and storming psych solos.