As the horn section blared out melodies over dense layers of percussion, the keyboardist for West African big band Chopteeth, Bill Dempsey, found a small place between the noise for an organ solo. The band headlined the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park on Saturday night, and Dempsey was able to fulfill one of his dreams.
“I’ve been listening to this style of music for a long time; I’ve always dreamed of finding others to play it with. In Milwaukee, I thought it would never happen; in DC it did,” said Dempsey. “It’s a tribute to DC that you can find Ghanaian musicians, Nigerian musicians, and American musicians, all coming together.”
Chopteeth was the brain child of singer/guitarist Michael Shereikis and bassist Robert Fox. Inspired by New York based band Antibalas; Fox asked Shereikis if he would be interested in starting an African big band. Shereikis, who was exposed to African music when he lived in the Ivory Coast as a member of the Peace Corps, agreed, and Chopteeth was born.