A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of getting some vegetarian Vietnamese grub with Martín Perna, founder of Antibalas and Ocote Soul Sounds. Activist, artist, apprentice of earth architecture master Nader Khalili, children’s book author, Martín is an original and the conversation is always fresh.
Over springrolls and tea we discussed the re-release of Antibalas’ Who Is This America? Originally dropped in 2004 by Ropeadope, this album was their fourth release and showed a range of musical influences in a mid-tempo, deep-groove funk. The percussion is pulsating, the horns fat, the commentary sharp. And unlike many groove laden bands, Antibalas doesn’t become stale, opting for harmonic variations over dull trappings of lesser beat music.
I asked Martín for his thoughts about the album and the state of the U.S. since the album’s original release. This is what he had to say:
“The album was recorded during 2004 at DapTone Studios. We were really mad, we’re still really mad…the war was starting, all the unanswered questions about September 11th. And speaking for myself, we were right in the middle of all of this. After September 11th the country really missed an opportunity to learn and heal and come together. There were moments like that immediately following the towers going down, there were moments like that all over New York City but there clearly was another political agenda and that was to take advantage of that moment to start up the war machine again.”
“The country, I think in many ways, has gotten worse. Both of the wars that were initiated during that time, Iraq and Afghanistan, they’re still going. We’re pulling out of Iraq, but they’re both bottomless pits, nobody won. Iraq is in shambles, Afghanistan is in shambles. There’s no cultural understanding…they’re still hurting from all the other harm that has been inflicted because of the invasion. And all the people who are fighting it, they get over there and they’re like, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” They see it one way on the news here then they get over there and it’s reality. Enemies everywhere and nowhere at the same time, witnessing all these atrocities, sometimes being put up to do things they know is against their moral judgment, and losing people around them, being separated from loved ones, it’s really horrible.”