This morning I posted this article on examiner.com describing a four month lab residency for the Bay Area afrobeat band Albino! to play at the Elbo Room in the Mission. Each month they will team up with a different artist to experiment with the kind of music that might come up out of that partnership. This is month (Friday) they are playing with Liberian-Bay Area DJ Jeremiah.
I'm not gonna lie, when I first heard about this band three years ago, it made my stomach churn a little bit. The idea of an Afrobeat band called Albino! which is comprised of *mostly* white dudes in costume (often African-themed costume and "tribal" face paint) was not really appealing to me at all; especially coming right out of an Ethnomusicology academic program where I thought about race and music consistently for three years. I was even sure that the band was pretty damn good, but it was still disturbing to me.
But then, the more I thought about it, and the more I got to know the Bay Area and its sense of humor and awareness, it seemed less and less of an issue. I mean, in Austin I was in an afropop band where we often didn't even know what we were singing about, let alone if we were singing words that made ANY sense in the original language (we learned covers phonetically). We just liked the music and wanted to recreate it the best we knew how. At least Albino!'s lyrics are in English and write about political and racial issues in their own community (class struggle within Oakland for instance).
The name Albino! and the costumes seem to be merely poking fun at the fact that the musicians are a bunch of white guys, and yeah, "we play African music," so what? There are dozens of afrobeat bands in the US comprised of mostly/all white people (Antibalas, Budos, Nomo, Afrodesia etc), and they're damn damn good bands that I love very much and do all I can to support them. Can I single one out because of a band name and funny outfits? Can I seriously consider this tasteless enough to count them out?
The music is good. The music does not poke fun. I now have one of their live CDs and it's great music.
What do you think; am I trying too hard justify this idea? Can we just laugh at it and dance?