Q&A: Martin Perna Talks Antibalas Residency, Bowling, and Performing in Brooklyn

Posted on Wednesday January 27th in

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Last week, Brooklyn Afrobeat outfit Antibalas kicked off what’s sure to be a memorable six-night residency (over the course of six months) at Brooklyn Bowl — the remaining dates are February 11th with Karikatura, March 9th with El Emperio, April 20th with Low Mentality, May 18th with Debo Band, and June 15th with artists to be announced. And recently, band founder Martín Perna spoke to Knockdown Alley about keeping it local and what to expect when you see Antibalas play live.

With a six-night residency over the next six months at Brooklyn Bowl about to begin, what were some of the highlights of your four-night residency here last fall? Tough question. There were so many that it’s hard naming one, but the first thing to come to mind is doing “Shove It,” with Santigold. The minute she sings, “Brooklyn we go hard,” the audience erupted. Two weeks before with Jovanotti was crazy, too. When he came out for his first song, 400 people in the audience pulled out their cell phones and started singing in Italian.

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There’s obviously something to be said for not having to go on the road to play live. What do you love about staying in Brooklyn to perform? It’s great to be able to return to the same stage where you know the sound, the sight lines and are able to ease into the setting. When that’s possible, it’s easier to get to places of new musical exploration rather than spending the whole night trying to find a solid footing onstage.

What’s your favorite part of playing Brooklyn Bowl? My favorite part is getting to see friends come out. It’s a place where people like to go see shows. And the dressing room has a shower.

And what’s your favorite thing to eat off the Brooklyn Bowl menu? Before shows, I order the quinoa and kale salad, sometimes with salmon, sometimes without. There are lots of other things I would order, but before performing I need something hearty but light.
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Over the course of your residency, will you have every night’s set list prepared in advance, or do you let the audience and the flow of each show affect what you play? We have every night’s set list in advance, usually because we’re trying to work in songs that are either really old or really new, and we spend the day before at rehearsal fine-tuning them for the show. We do have a pretty deep bag of stuff that we play regularly that we can add to the set spontaneously, but for the most part we know what songs we’re going to perform before we hit the stage.

Any plans to bowl over the course of your residency here? And if so, what’s your high score so far? Yes! We will do some bowling. We haven’t really established who is the top bowler in the group, but I sense a cutthroat competition coming on in 2016.
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How would you describe an Antibalas live show to those who haven’t seen you yet? Big band. Beats, clave, singing, horns, dynamic tension of tight grooves, and loose, flowing elements. Everyone is part of the show.
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