Chopteeth: Music that makes you think and dance

August 07, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

FREDERICK, Md. -Chopteeth's debut album will reflect the band's love for Afrobeat and the loathing of "intellectual malaise" that members together three years ago, said frontman Michael Shereikis.

Chopteeth, a 14-piece Afrobeat ensemble, will perform at 7 p.m. on Sunday in Frederick, as part of a free summer concert series at Baker Park.

Chopteeth will release its first album, "Chopteeth AfroFunk Big Band," in September. In the tradition of Afrobeat, they hope to present music with a message.

"We're living in a time where people need to speak up," Shereikis said.

Chopteeth is inspired by the music of Fela Kuti, a Nigerian band leader credited with birthing Afrobeat in the 1970s. Kuti's music was politically tinged, and he often criticized the Nigerian government. But just as it was music that made you think, it was also music that made you dance.


There was a resurgence of Afrobeat in 2000, Shereikis said. Chopteeth, formed in 2005, has always aimed to do both entertain and make people think. Shereikis hopes that will be reflected on the debut album.

"The political stuff is important to me," Shereikis said, "but what trumps it is positivity."

About Chopteeth

City: Washington, D.C.

Genre: World music. Chopteeth is a 14-piece Afrobeat ensemble

Influences: Fela Kuti

Upcoming show: 7 p.m. Aug. 10, Baker Park bandshell, Frederick, Md. The park runs along West Second Street, between College Avenue and North Bentz Street. The concert is free.

Web:; blog,

Q&A with Michael Shereikis, lead singer of Chopteeth

Given the politically charged messages of early Afrobeat, the types of songs Fela Kuti was doing in the '70s, what would you say is the role of Afrobeat today?

Shereikis: There are different strains of Afrobeat. There are the sons of Fela - Femi, Seun. They're carrying on the tradition of their father. In America, it's the same tradition of seeing what you're seeing and speaking what you see, but the context is different. So for us, when we sing to American audiences, we sing about broadening your outlook. We live in a global society today.

Given the current landscape of American music - people are into rock, rap and country - is this an easy sell?

Shereikis: Turns out it is. It's a fresh, big band. Our priority is to create a dance floor. Not all of our songs are shouting polemics. If there's no dancing, the band isn't inspired. If the band isn't inspired, there's no dancing. So it all goes together.

Is it hard getting 14 musicians on the same page?

Shereikis: Oh, it's been smooth. That's a lie. Getting people together and going to do festivals - we're very fair. We split up the money pretty equally. Sometimes it spreads thin.

So you guys aren't in it for the money, then.

Shereikis: You definitely can't be in it for the money. Nope. It's not so much of a challenge, but it's different from if you were a three- or four-piece band.

Why do you think there has been a resurgence in Afrobeat's popularity?

Shereikis: Several things - the merits of the music. It's an intriguing way to make music. You've got a dozen people on stage, each person is contributing their part. No one is stepping on any one else toes. When everything is clicking, it's a beautiful thing.

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