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AfroZep / Press

“One is the founder of Afrobeat, the other are gods of heavy metal. It's difficult to imagine Fela Kuti and Led Zeppelin breaking bread together, but Marshall Greenhouse – founding member of Chicago's Afro-Zep – likes to think it's possible. "I would say I've never heard of [this blend of music]," he said, stopping for a considerate moment, "but don't you think there has got to have been a festival or something?" Introducing the late Fela Kuti to American fans has been the underlying goal of Greenhouse's musical pursuits for the better part of a decade. As a member of Chicago Afrobeat Project, the influence of the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and activist was more clear cut. Fans that come to see Afro-Zep are mostly Led Zeppelin fans. "A lot of people actually come up to us after shows and are like, 'Wow, that was really original... how'd you come up with that?' I just tell them, 'Yeah, we pretty much ripped that off of Fela.'"”

“This fall, the band tackles one of their most ambitious undertakings yet, recreating the entire Houses Of The Holy album at home in Chicago on 10/31 and in the heart of Times Square on 11/3 (with stops in Pennsylvania and Connecticut along the way). There’s an interesting story behind how HotH got the nod. “We did not want to do Stairway to Heaven ever!” Wilson explains. “That track is on two very important recordings that we considered: Song Remains the Same and Led Zeppelin IV.” “After many listenings… we are very happy with our choice to cover the album,” he continues “It is a fantastic period piece that bridges the older, bluesy rock oriented Zep with the late period anthemic and epic songwriting.” New audiences should come with an open mind “Overall, it’s a very enthusiastic response. Sometimes, at the end of a show, a fan will confess they weren’t ‘so sure’ about the concept. But ultimately, after hearing us, they use words like blown-away.” ”

“Even in a world where Beatallica (Milwaukee’s Beatles-Metallica mash-up band) exists, nobody would have predicted that a band would attempt to combine the blues-rock of Led Zeppelin with the indignant, political Afrobeat of Fela Kuti. But that’s exactly what Chicago band Afro Zep does, rearrange Zeppelin, Fela, and Thomas Mapfumo tunes in to a new hybrid. Robert Plant’s wail at the beginning of “Immigrant Song,” for example, becomes an Afrobeat-style brass blast atop steadily chugging guitar and African percussion, and “DubQuarter” aptly funkifies the epic melodies of “No Quarter.” It’s a risky mix, but a hell of a lot easier to cheer on than the zillion bands who’ve baldly ripped off Zeppelin for decades.”

“I gotta give it up for Afro Zep. A lot of cover bands rely on gimmicks, and Zeppelin cover bands are no exception—there’s one that’s all lesbians and another that’s fronted by an Elvis impersonator and plays reggae versions of the songs. But Afro Zep’s collision of Zeppelin and African pop—they graft Plant and Page’s melodies to grooves lifted straight from Fela Kuti or inspired by the likes of Franco, Thomas Mapfumo, and Tinariwen—is more than just a novelty. Their hybrid sound is like a highly listenable thought experiment: would Zeppelin’s heavy borrowings from the blues, which has centuries-old roots in Africa, help their songs click with music that’s evolved in Africa over the past 50 years or so? Of course, the crowds at Afro Zep shows probably have other things on their minds than cultural appropriation—like dancing their asses off.”

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