Swing kings aim for dynamic Womad

19:19, Feb 24 2013
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Antibalas member Martin Perna says his group's music is like the foreplay before a couple makes love.

Antibalas founder and baritone saxophonist Martin Perna says his group's music is like the foreplay before a couple makes love.

"It doesn't go right to the climax, it's a big build-up.

"It sounds a bit salacious to use that metaphor, but it really is like that. In order for the music to really have its power, everyone has to be loose and comfortable and whatever stress or doubts or suspicions they have, they have to leave those at the door."

He says if you aren't familiar with their music, it may just sound like a jam.

However, it is complex genre made up of simple structures that unfold to tell a story.

"It is very different to rock music, there's not the same dialogue that's constantly going on between the guitar and the drums. There are all these different conversations going on within the music and the rhythmic structure.


"It is set up to give it a sense of perpetual motion. So, as repetitive as it is, it doesn't sound repetitive."

Perna and the 12-piece band are gearing up to take the Womad NZ stage next month.

Having only spent just 22 hours in Wellington previously, the Houston-based musician said he still managed to feel New Zealand's "vibe" and couldn't wait to get back.

"New Zealand was really overwhelming in general.

"One of the biggest impressions I took away was that it's one of the few places in the world where folks really appreciate the value of undisturbed nature. That in itself is priceless."

Perna says Houston was a "vision of hell" compared with New Zealand.

"It's polluted and it looks like The Matrix with its miles and miles of refinery and tanks. While everything that was nice about it, like the trees and natural springs, don't exist any more."

Knowing about the popularity of the oil and gas industry in Taranaki, Perna hopes the province doesn't follow in the footsteps of Texas.

"It is so seductive because populations grow, our energy consumption grows and the amount of energy people are used to using grows. So the infrastructure is in place for this exploration of oil and gas.

"They promise all these jobs. Then when all that stuff is gone, all the fuel is burned up, people are without jobs and the landscape is transformed in a way that it will never return to its healthy and natural state."

Worries aside, Perna looks forward to taking in the province's rural environment and performing for the people. He says everywhere they perform the crowds are different and he was unsure what to expect from Womad attendees.

"It will depend on what the vibe of the festival is like - people come to the show with different mind states."

A fan of metaphors, he uses that of water to describe the way people react.

"If the room and the collective vibe of the people is like a block of ice, we could put all our energy in and melt the ice into water.

"But if people come into it with the water already in their body, and the room is warm, then we get to a boiling point where it turns in to a vapour. Those are the best shows."

It all depends on the temperature of the people, he says.

The Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra plan to stay an extra five or so days after Womad, to do some hiking and check out the region's natural attractions.

"It will be nice to see more of a rural outlook. It's still not nearly enough time for a proper visit. But it's better than flying back the next morning, like we did from Wellington in 2010."


Martin Perna: Baritone saxophone

Stuart D Bogie: Tenor saxophone

Jordan McLean:Trumpet, flugelhorn

Aaron Johnson: Trombone

Victor Axelrod: Organ, electric pianos, clavinet, electric celeste, synthesisers, percussion

Luke O'Malley: Guitar

Marcos J Garcia: Guitar, vocals

Nikhil Yerawadekar: Bass guitar, guitar

Miles Arntzen: Drums

Duke Amayo: Vocals, congas, percussion

Marcus Farrar: shekere, vocals

Rey de Jesus: congas

Taranaki Daily News