When the final curtain fell in 2011 for the London production of Fela! The Musical, the original band that wowed audiences and backed the production decided to continue on. But this time the would not just play the politically charged Afro Beat music that Kuti was so well known for, but their own music. This was the birth of The Fontanelles. Carrying the spirit of Fela with them, they worked on original material that contained Ska, Reggae, Ethio-Jazz, film scores, Nigerian master, Dub, and Afro Beat influences. Picked up by First Word Records, The Fontanelles are their newest signing to the label. These twelve very unique musicians have collectively played with the likes of Tony Allen , Africa Express, Plan B, Soothsayers, Johnny Clarke, Courtney Pine and Adele, John Legend, Tom Jones, Keziah Jones, Soothsayers, Jazz Jamaica, McCoy Tyner, Barry White, Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA, Massive Attack , Keziah Jones, Grace Jones, The Mighty Diamonds, Bob Andy, and Joss Stone to name a few. That’s a list of notables right there, and from the sounds of both of these tracks, the band is tight. You have to be tight to play Fela’s music night in and night out in front of sold out audiences to perfection.
The first tune, “Pinprick” is a dub influenced, heavy bass filled track with some meaty horn hooks. You can hear the multiple influences from Dub to Ethio-Jazz, but don’t get it twisted, this tracks moves you (and your feet). “Criminality” has obvious Fela influences, and embodies the spirit of his music and the players he surrounded himself with. This Afro Beat stomper brings it home hard. The energy released through this side is incredible, and reminds me a bit of “2000 Blacks” with Roy Ayers. This side is toughest modern Afro Beat side I have heard so far this year, and there have been a slew of them out. All good of course, but The Fontanelles most closely resemble the original product. There was a reason they were chosen to play Fela’s music on stage, and their new, original material carries on the tradition and has the energy of the Black President and his sound. Not something any band can pull off, but they do. Looking forward to hearing more from this talented band. This is coming out as a 45, so it surely needs to be in your collection (and ours too!).
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