Courtesy of CHOPTEETH
The stage at U Hall will be a little more crowded than usual and the dance floor a little more alive March 10 thanks to 12-piece “afrofunk orchestra” Chopteeth, who will be doing their best to move every booty in attendance.
Chopteeth, who have won several local awards for world music, combine afrobeat with other big-band African sounds, native D.C. funk and go-go in an effort to create the perfect dance party.
“We play a lot of the big-band African sounds from the ’70s, the kind of hot dance floor that’s hard to come by these days,” lead singer and guitar player Michael Shereikis said in an interview with The Eagle. “The music is for dancing, that’s the key.”
Shereikis first became interested in the African sounds that would eventually become Chopteeth during his time at college in Africa, where he not only learned different styles, but also a different approach to live music.
“I was inspired by my time living in the Central African Republic with the Peace Corps and later in the Ivory Coast for research on my dissertation,” he said. “It wasn’t about a show in Central Africa, it’s not focused on the performers there; it’s about everybody.”
This philosophy bleeds into Chopteeth’s live shows, during which no member of the band rises above the others, but rather they all play, and dance, together with the audience.
Although they started out focusing only on afrobeat, the band has expanded into other genres in an effort to create an even more danceable groove.
“We’re shooting for a very joyful, easy vibe,” Shereikis said. “We play some very intense, politically charged afrobeat, but we also try to play more joyful stuff like Tabu Ley Rochereau,” the man sometimes described as the African Sam Cooke.
Part of their sound experimentation caused Chopteeth to look more locally, drawing on the D.C. funk and go-go traditions and combining that with their traditional African sounds.
“The afrobeat and go-go audiences don’t always overlap, but when they do, the funk audiences definitely get what we’re doing and they like it,” Shereikis said. “We fit right in with that, we’re just coming at it from a different perspective.”
The show on Saturday will be Chopteeth’s last before making their first trip to New Orleans, and they hope to bring the same energy and danceability that they consistently bring to their local shows.
The All Mighty Senators, a similar afrofunk band who shares a trombone player with Chopteeth, will open the show.
“This is our first time playing with the Almighty Senators, and they are not to be missed,” Shereikis said. “They’re playing first which is silly because we should totally be opening for them.”
Regardless of who opens for whom, both bands promise to make even the most detached hipster shamelessly boogie.