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Standout Track: No. 2, “Weigh Your Blessings,” where Chopteeth formally recognizes that being an Afrobeat band from Takoma Park, Md.—with its natural food co-ops and well-stocked video stores–might be more comfortable than being an Afrobeat band from, say, Africa. “This can’t escape your mind/When you’re weighing your blessings/That life is pretty fine,” sings guitarist/bandleader Michael Shereikis over a bustling Fela Kuti–inspired groove.
Musical Motivation: Since Shereikis writes the majority of Chopteeth’s music alone in his studio before taking it to the rest of the band, the composition process can be a bit isolating. Not so with “Blessings.”
The song was completed during an all-night recording session/party after a gig with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars. “Our manager knew their guys, so they came in, and we had a whole night of it,” says Shereikis. The guest musicians funked up the original bass line and free-styled lyrics over the back half of the song, he says.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Given the band’s abundance of drummers and percussionists, Chopteeth has never really had a hard time working up a song’s momentum. Stopping it, on the other hand, used to be a bit of a problem. “During early shows, sometimes we would get into a song and realize we hadn’t thought about how we were going to end it,” admits Shereikis. “When there are 14 people you have to know that.” So, what’s the signal to wrap things up? A head nod? Arm waving? Shereikis wouldn’t clarify. “Let’s just say communication used to have to be very overt,” he says.