The Daktaris were an Afrobeat group on the New York-based funk revival label Desco, recording compact, Fela Kuti-style grooves that sounded as though they’d come straight out of 1970s Nigeria. At first, Desco did nothing to discourage that perception, packaging their 1998 album Soul Explosion to look like an authentic African collector’s dream, and even giving some of the band members Nigerian aliases.
But in reality, the Daktaris were Brooklyn-based studio musicians, many of them white, many of whom had already been assembled by Desco heads Gabriel Roth and Phillipe Lehman as the label’s house band, the Soul Providers. Besieged by inquiries about the music’s origins and demand for a Daktaris tour, Roth and Lehman soon acknowledged the hoax, but given the quality of the album, the backlash wasn’t enormously great. There was no follow-up to the Daktaris’ initial session, but some of the members formed a new Afrobeat revivalist group called Antibalas in the spring of 1998. The output from that ensemble carried on the sounds heard here in an immensely authentic way.
Peter Franklin of Abidjan Musique described the group by saying, “The Daktaris are a well-disciplined army of two hundred African bull elephants marching relentlessly up your business to the beat from Funky Drummer.” Sounds like a suitable description to me. Now get the disc and let the rhythm take you away.