**** (4 out of 5 stars)
Once upon a time, in the mid 1960s, there was a magical place that was half Tokyo and half Rome. In this city, let’s call it Nuovo Japon, there were two feuding clans: the beatnik kung-fu gangsters and the robot-monster arch villains. The beatnik kung-fu gangsters operated a chain of Chinese-Italian restaurants and shook down the city’s merchants for protection money; they wore large Elton John sunglasses and simply huge bellbottoms. Plus they carried hatchets and nunchakus. The robot-monster arch villains built a series of ever-more terrifying giant robot monsters with which they would extort huge sums of cash from the government. They sported severe haircuts and black Nehru jackets, and all of them had at least one fake hand.
One day, the beatnik kung-fu gangsters and the robot-monster arch villains fought to the death at Nuovo Japon’s coliseum, but before they did, they enjoyed a huge meal at one of the Chinese-Italian restaurants. Fela Kuti was there, along with his 80-member band of African robots. They played an impromptu show for the two feuding gangs before their fight to the death.
As they would all likely die within a few hours, the meal became a celebration of life. The music swirled throughout the restaurant and people danced and danced, tears streaming down their faces, embracing each other as friends for the first and only time in their lives. Antibalas is the personification of that day.—Andreas Trolf