Besides these artists, BANTU implicates you in its web of family. On the Afrobeat song from Agbero International, ‘Niger Delta Blues,’ there is as much a call to international authorities to look at the plight of the people of the Niger Delta as there is to the people to dance as there is to master drummer Tony Allen, whose universally African spirit one might say governs the proceedings on Agberos International. As Allen once said, “You can tell a good drummer because we have four limbs and they are playing different things. The patterns don’t just come from Yoruba [but] other parts of Nigeria and Africa.” Musically, Agberos International represents a quest for liberation. “We wanted to set the record straight and break free from all the labels people keep trying to apply when wanting to describe us or our music,” said Ade Bantu.
The title of the album Agbero International expresses the band’s intentions. Agbero is Yoruba slang for public vehicle conductor, a man hailing passersby to board his taxi or bus. The agbero implicated in the title is a crowd-puller of international reach, an apt metaphor for a band like BANTU, which deploys the estimable services of producer/sound engineer Aman Junaid who has worked with such artists and groups like TLC, George Clinton, Outkast and Organized Noize on the new album.
On the aforementioned track ‘Niger Delta Blues’, the album’s longest song, Ade Bantu, who is fluent in both English and German, offers a spoken word piece, parts of it in the pidgin peculiar to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The song is introduced by a Yoruba folk song in what can be read as the band focusing its pan-African, pan-Nigerian focus on a single song. “The blues of the Niger Delta has now become the blues of Nigeria – yours and mine,” says Ade Bantu over a heavy afrobeat sound.
Not that the music of BANTU is exclusively political. Along with stinging criticism of the Nigerian ruling class and harmful western policies, the music of BANTU is never less than danceable -as if even in acknowledging the difficulty of Lagos, Nigeria and African living, there is an imperative to be happy, to see the bright side, to remember that though music is a tool of protest, it also one that inspires dance. On Agberos International, the band offers a satire of the Lagos Barbie archetype, a local human version of the popular doll; there is ‘Ma Ko Ba Mi’, a playful interpretation of a common Yoruba folk song; and ‘Oni T’emi’, a love song delivered in spoken word verses featuring the poet Wana Wana aka Wana Udobang, who plays a female who is serenading and is being serenaded by Ade Bantu’s male lover with “pitch-perfect oriki poetry”. The album concludes with ‘Ile (Africa)’, a part eulogistic, part elegiac tribute from a returnee narrator to the continent that inspires the band. It is both love song and activist music; as always it lends itself to dancing.