Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fela Lives

Just a quick review of the Seun Anikulapo Kuti concert I saw last Wednesday. The Tatoo on Seun's back said it all. "Fela Lives" The youngest muscially inclined son of the legendary African musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti played at the Wisconsin Union Theater on June 27th in Madison Wisconsin marking his debut performance in the United States. Fela's old band the Egypt 80, now led by Seun, took the stage first and after a long instumental, Seun appeared and made his way to the front. At just 25 years old, Seun is a young but commanding leader. In fact he has been leading the band for almost ten years now after his father's death in 1997.

The rhythms of the 18-piece Egypt 80 were brilliantly orchestrated in true Afrobeat style and from the moment they began I was almost overcome with emotion. You could you the passion for music in every one of their eyes. Seun, who looks remarkably like his father, shared his father's skill on the saxophone as well. Dancing in a manner, like all the best performers, that was part smooth sexual motions and part random spasms. Speaking of dancing, the booty shaking of the three dancers was on a level I had not witnessed in some time, since my own travels in Africa. They moved that thang left and right, in such rapid calculated gestures that it was almost beyond belief. You have to see such shakin' to appreciate it. Some Madison women got on stage in what Seun called "crowd participation" to try to shake it just as fast, but no one even came close.

The show started with a couple of Fela songs to pay respect to him, because as everyone knows, without him the current tour wouldn't be possible. Seun then transitioned to his own material which was actually quite good, giving political commentary along the way about his home goverment of Nigeria as well as the global heirarchy, raising his middle finger in protest against the G8 leaders for their refusal to ever walk the walk. For much of the beginning of the show it seemed as though Seun wasn't going to remove his shirt, but about halfway through he did, revealing the "Fela Lives" tatoo, the same words on the T-shirt I had worn to the show.

Overall it was a great show that far xceeded my expectations. I hadn't seen any African music live in awhile so it was some good medicine for me. And even my younger brother, who doesn't typically like that music but came on a whim, thourough enjoyed himself. As the show began with a tribute to Fela, so the show ended in the same way with the entire band doing what I like to call the Fela Power Move, both fists raised as you turn to the right, then the left and then behind. Then, when most everyone had cleared the theater I was able to shake his hand as he walked by.

As this was Seun first US show he doesn't have a ton of released material yet but I believe a single has come out since last week and I would encourage all to pick it up and continue the trend of fine African music. Information about the singe and Seun in general is likely available at Seun's myspace page. You can listen to his songs "Think Africa" and "Na Oil" there as well.

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