Afro Zep

Led Zeppelin 2 seem like the obvious choice here—they put on a spectacular, spot-on show, they sell out halls as big the House of Blues, they’ve got what might be the best possible name for a Led Zep tribute act, and the guy flashing torso as Robert Plant is Bruce Lamont of Yakuza. But I gotta give it up for Afro Zep. A lot of cover bands rely on gimmicks, and Zeppelin cover bands are no exception—there’s one that’s all lesbians and another that’s fronted by an Elvis impersonator and plays reggae versions of the songs. But Afro Zep’s collision of Zeppelin and African pop—they graft Plant and Page’s melodies to grooves lifted straight from Fela Kuti or inspired by the likes of Franco, Thomas Mapfumo, and Tinariwen—is more than just a novelty. Their hybrid sound is like a highly listenable thought experiment: would Zeppelin’s heavy borrowings from the blues, which has centuries-old roots in Africa, help their songs click with music that’s evolved in Africa over the past 50 years or so? Of course, the crowds at Afro Zep shows probably have other things on their minds than cultural appropriation—like dancing their asses off.