For Chopteeth, even a dance party can be a deep exercise in tracing musical lineages. Over many sweaty gigs, the group honed a Fela Kuti piece of fugue-like complexity (“Question Jam Answer”) and spent months calling Nigeria to find an unsung master of African funk. They dug through record store bins, trolled the internet, and mined the vinyl of die-hard African record buffs to find lo-fi and neglected gems.
These gems harken back to the golden age of African pop, the 1970s. In rough-and-ready studios, musicians laid down heady mixes of James Brown-inspired funk, complex chord changes, and local rhythms. They reacted to soul and rumba, to jazz and rock, to harsh political realities and deep roots. Though some musicians of this generation rose to international prominence, many languished, only recently rediscovered by dedicated African music fans, labels, and collectors.
Chopteeth's live set captures that full-on energy, with a heavy-hitting horn section, layers of irresistibly catchy interlocking rhythm, and carefully crafted takes on African pop classics.Their versatility and energy have won them a wildly devoted local fanbase—and garnered them eight Wammies (the DC answer to the Grammies®), including Artist of the Year. Their debut CD CHOPTEETH (Grigri Discs, 2008) helped build this following, thanks to trans-African originals that eclectically combined the wealth of African pop with upbeat lyrics in multiple languages.
The band’s live vibe was then captured on their second CD CHOPTEETH LIVE (Grigri Discs, 2010), featuring 10 blistering tracks that channel all the heavy-duty intensity of a good old big band, something increasingly rare in this age of mp3s and streaming files. “The truth is people don’t often hear big bands playing dance music live anymore,” muses Chopteeth bassist Robert Fox. “You hear a song like Fela’s ‘J.J.D.’ in person, and it just feels different. It’s a shocking experience for the audience.”