Saturday, August 11, 2007

Finally I've Seen Femi

The time has come for me to review the live performance I recently saw of the great Femi Kuti, son of Fela Kuti. Having just moved to Boulder, Colorado, I naturally checked the flyers posted downtown to see if there were any upcoming shows featuring African music. For some reason I found no such flyers, but remarkably I still managed to hear about a concert being put on by Femi Kuti and his band the Positive Force. I was incredibly delighted because Femi is certainly one of my favorite African musicians and I was able to see his younger half brother Seun earlier this summer.

Eager to make the comparison I set out on an old squeeky cruiser bike and headed to the show. The typical African crowd that faithfully attends shows like this was in full force, some wearing hip funky outfits and others sporting more traditional garb. I entered the theater, downtown Boulder's Boulder Theater and went right to the front. The scene was relaxed as the show was for people 21+ and thus I had no problems finding my way to the front.

Before long the band was dancing on to the stage and Femi was in command. Omitting the instrumental introduction of Seun's concert, Femi joined the band immediately and began to play his songs. Femi eased the crowd into the music, nothing too intense from the beginning, but as the music quickly picked up the crowd moved more and more. Contrary to the almost choreographed moves of Seun and Fela, Femi was more likely to be shaking furiously to the beat and often stuck poses at the end of his songs. He played all of his well composed and very danceable hits including Beng Beng Beng (during which he gave a lecture on the importance of sex education), Stop AIDS, If Them Want to Hear, 1-2-3-4, Bring Me the Man Now plus many more and of course a couple of tributes to Fela including his masterpiece of a song '97 and his cover of a Fela classic Water Get No Enemy.

His age and experience as a musician really set him apart from Seun. Playing the keyboard, trumpet and at least two kinds of saxophone he was clearly a master of his trade. At one point during the show he showed off his impressive circular breathing technique by playing a couple of notes for a good three or four minutes. It was a pleasure to see him perform and really enjoy himself as the sweat poured off both of our faces. As he bowed and exitted the stage, my fist shot into the air. Power. At the end I waited hopefully to possibly shake his hand, but was thwarted as he used a different exit and boarded his bus. I'm now only 2 for 3 on African musician handshakes. Overall however, it was a wonderful show not to be missed by any who may have the opportunity. And he remains one of my all time favorites. If you want the incredible experience of a Femi concert, but are not able to see him live then pick up his DVD Live at the Shrine and you will be similarly moved.


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