Follow the Afrobeat Path

Adelaide collective Shaolin Afronauts continue to experiment and evolve with their third full-length, the double-album opus Follow the Path.

Adelaide collective Shaolin Afronauts continue to experiment and evolve with their third full-length, the double-album opus Follow the Path. Recorded before the group toured Europe and Japan in June, Follow the Path showcases Shaolin Afronauts’ upbeat Afrobeat-influence on disc one, before disc two takes an experimental future jazz adventure. Guitarist Dylan Marshall, who is part of the songwriting core of the ARIA Award-nominated Afronauts along with bandleader and bassplayer Ross McHenry, drummer Kevin van der Zwaag and fellow guitarist Lachlan Ridge, says the album shows “two sides of the band”. Marshall plays in Afronauts-affiliated groups, including the on-hiatus soul and deep funk act The Transatlantics and the hip hop and beats influenced VoiceRom. He says Afrobeat will always be a core part of the group despite Follow the Path’s second disc exploring American experimental jazz territory just like their sophomore LP Quest Under Capricorn. “Afrobeat will always be a part of Shaolin Afronauts,” Marshall says. “Something that we’ve discussed a lot is that it’s kind of this weird thing because we’re all into American music, whether it’s soul music or jazz, but in terms of Afrobeat, they [the Afrobeat originators] were also influenced by those same sorts of people and traditions. The influences we get from Afrobeat went from Africa to America, back to Africa, then to America and back to Africa again. There’s always that interplay between those worlds with us as the sponges of everything.” With the members of the band (which stretches from nine to 18 players) all in other outfits as well as solo projects outside of the Afronauts, Marshall says the band’s members are starting to dedicate more time to the Afrobeat collective, who will officially launch Follow the Path at Rocket Rooftop on Sunday, October 5. “We’ve been on tour a couple of times now and that has helped [to dedicate more time to the band]. We went to Japan and Europe and we want to continue doing that because it was really enjoyable and we’re all friends. We all hang out in different bands and always see different people around at gigs. It’s a community and I think this band encompasses a lot of those players from across the Adelaide scene. The thing that I’ve found is that the bigger a band gets, the harder it is to get everyone in the room at the same time. That’s always the case and in this case it’s very much true. Over the last 18 months or so, we’ve really made more of a plan to get overseas, especially as that’s probably where most of our fans are and most of our sales have happened. It was an important step for us to take to go overseas and, now that we’ve done that, I think we’ll continue to try and do that and spend more time with this band.” On their recent overseas tour, the Afronauts performed at the famed Glastonbury Festival. The band launched a crowdfunding campaign to get the large collective to the festival. Marshall doesn’t think they’ll call on their fans to help them fund their next overseas jaunt. “It’s a lot of money to get to Europe, especially when you’ve got 10 people going over, and the crowdfunding thing was good but I think our plan is to move away from that and do it on our own. We obviously appreciate all of the support but we can’t just keep calling on people to help get us over there.” Did their overseas fans know they are an Adelaide band, given the group with an Afro-Japanese name are donned in cloaks when they perform? “There were Japanese fans that had all of our albums and it was like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t expect that’. Then we went to Spain and there were all of these people that already had all of our records. So I assume so [that they knew they were from Adelaide] but they didn’t think we’re from Africa, at least they knew that!” he laughs. “But it was a good experience going out to see people that have all of your albums in a different country, it’s kind of crazy.” Follow the Path (Freestyle Records) out now
 Shaolin Afronauts play Rocket Bar Rooftop
 on Sunday, October 5  

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