Beat the system: Afrobeat act Underground System plays National Sawdust

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This band has eclectic beats!

A Brooklyn band that combines Afrobeat, new wave, punk, and more will bring its dance-heavy act to National Sawdust in Williamsburg on June 16. The frontwoman and lead singer of Underground System said the group’s diverse range of influences is a match for its Brooklyn origin.

“The music mirrors the scene in Brooklyn,” said Domenica Fossati. “It’s a magnet to all these different cultures.”

Underground System, whose members hail from Bedford-Stuyvestant, Greenpoint, and Bushwick, started out playing straight-up Afrobeat, but eventually combined added other styles to make their own unique sound, said Fossati. Their shows feature an array of instruments, including African drums, horns, and guitars.

Audiences are drawn to the kinesthetic aspects of the group’s performances, dancing while they play — an aspect that is reflected in its debut album “What Are You,” coming out in September.

“It has a very dance-y vibe,” said Fossati. “It’s visually very energetic, and the music is also energetic.”

Guitarist Peter Matson produced the new album, and the songs showcase the sound the band members discovered after sifting through the Brooklyn scene the past few years, said Fossatti.

“It’s kind of our statement, what we found in our voice,” she said. “It’s a homage to New York, with all its different genres and influences.”

The group’s influences include other artists who blend afrobeat with different styles, including the electronic afrobeat Ibibio Sound Machine. And the group takes its name “Underground System,” from the last album by the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. The band members feel the name pays respect to the man who brought the African musical variant to the world.

“The album is very deep and powerful, and the last thing he did before he passed away,” said Fossati. “We wanted to nod our head to that album.

The show on June 16 is part of a three-show series curated by Sudanese-American musician Sinkane, who blends music from Sudan with Western genres.

Underground System at National Sawdust (80 N. Sixth Street at Whythe Avenue in Williamsburg, (646) 779–8455, June 16 at 7 pm. $20.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 5:43 pm, July 9, 2018
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