Since co-founding the unstoppable musical style of Afrobeat almost 50 years ago, master drummer Tony Allen has recorded dozens of albums, both solo and with everyone from Damon Albarn to Zap Mama. Now, he’s teamed up with some of Haiti’s finest, including musicians from Lakou Mizik and Yizra’El Band, forming supergroup Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra. Their brief time together marked by technical and musical chaos (including a smoke grenade at a music festival), the Orchestra’s only album had to be pieced together from rehearsals and re-recording sessions. The result: a space-age frenzy of traditional Caribbean music, Afrobeat rhythms, and psychedelic electronics.
It was well worth the effort. Every track is brand new, bursting with tightly packed colors and textures. “Chay La Lou” sounds like smoke and neon. “Bade Zile” is pure Afro-Caribbean electrofunk. “Mon Ami Tezin” haunts, slow and mournful. “Pa Bat Kòw” rises to the top of the pack, with soaring solo vocalists Zikiki and Mirla Samuel Pierre from Yizra’El Band. Each member of the Orchestra adds to the ecstasy as cultures swirl together, and each piece feeds off of the whole group’s unstoppable energy, creating something exponentially stronger than each individual member. In spite of their improbable and almost disastrous beginnings, Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra is a masterpiece of trans-Atlantic collaboration, full of familiar sounds that make up a completely unique creation