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Event Archive - "14 piece band from Nigeria, Africa, Son of Fela Kuti": Femi Kuti, Axe' Capoeira

Sun. July 31st 2005 Centennial Square (All Ages)
6pm - 10pm
"Nigerian Funky and Fiesty Afrobeat"
Femi Kuti
Opening act... Axe' Capoeira
Sun. July 31st, 2005
Centennial Square - "Open Air"
Showtime 7:30pm
Tickets: $30 Advance / $33 Door
Tickets available at: Lyles Place (cash only) 250-382-8422 & McPherson Box Office (service charge) 250-386-6121

Femi's Website is:
Axe's Website is:

Treading in the footsteps of his famous father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Femi is now the standard bearer for Nigeria's funky, feisty afrobeat sound. Femi dominates the stage with his stirring saxophone, playing soulful vocals and groove laden rhythms. Continuing in the afrobeat tradition, Femi band consists of a solid, six-piece horn section and two strong percussionists. With guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and four singer/dancers, totaling 17 members.

The challenge of sustaining the musical legacy of a legendary parent can be a near-suffocating burden - just ask Julian Lennon. However, the chance to learn from a parent's mistakes and inject fresh artistic energy into one's sonic heritage could propel the student to transcend the teacher. Femi Anikulapo Kuti stands on the cusp of doing just that.
Thirteen years into a solo career that began in the daunting shadow of his father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Femi Kuti is facing the prospects of extending his father's legend by actually eclipsing it. This might be blasphemous to longtime fans of Afro-beat, the music that Fela created in the '70s by merging American funk with traditional African rhythms, but Femi Kuti is indeed improving on his father's work, both musically and politically.

Since Fela died from AIDS in August of 1997, his stature has risen to god-like proportions among the international dance music community and especially among the millions of Nigerians on whose behalf Fela constantly prodded the government over his 30-year career. It is a widely held belief that since Fela was the most ardent protester against the injustices that occurred in both post-colonial Nigeria and on the entire continent of Africa, Femi will probably never reach the mythical status of his father. That said, he has never shied away from Fela's aura, and he is vocal about his desire to surpass it. "It's the heritage, and you can not take one piece without the other piece," he says. "It's about the African way of life and this is my life. My life revolves around the politics and the spiritual way and the way we live, so it's all part of it. And I think that the people here already see me like that."

One reason that Femi stands to be more of a galvanizing political force is that he is much less antagonistic than his father, who was famous for his biting diatribes on government corruption, military rule and other forms of oppression. Femi has certainly inherited his father's ability to be a thorn in the side of the government via political commentary within his songs, but it is more likely that the Nigerian government would seek to work in cooperation with Femi.

The reason for that fact lies in Femi's lifestyle choices, many of which are directly at odds with those of his father.
Fela's affection for polygamy (he once married 27 of his dancers during a concert), condom-free sex, his advocacy of marijuana use and his penchant for performing in only his underwear, provided the Nigerian government with the opportunity to repeatedly harass him, with the hope of suppressing his vocal political protests. Fela was arrested numerous times, mostly on unfounded charges, and was imprisoned four times.

Femi saw his father's lifestyle as a counterpoint to the dramatic impact his music was having on the politics and the culture of Nigeria and of Africa as a whole. He decided early on that he wanted to couple all of Fela's political potency with some righteousness and self-determination of his own. Femi has one wife, doesn't smoke or drink and is an advocate of safe sex, making him a much more palatable spokesman for the proletariat to President Olusegun Obasanjo's government. Femi was certain to maintain his father's anti-establishment sensibilities, though, and he founded MASS, the Movement Against Second Slavery, to spread the word of the effects of government corruption and American and European business interests on post-colonial Africa. He has since distanced himself from that organization due to strategic differences with those that led the group in his absence. Regardless, he continues his quest of educating the masses that the ideals of the democratic system imposed upon African countries by outside interests may not be in the best interests of African people. "I grew up in it and I've spent all my life in Nigeria and I know the politics of Nigeria, and the music is a big part of my goal to spread the message," he says.

Although his eponymous release in 1995 was well received critically, it never really took off. However, Femi released his second full-length LP, Shoki Shoki along with his band Positive Force, on Barclay-Polygram in the fall of 1999, and the response on dancefloors in Africa and Europe has been incredible. At last year's Kora All Africa Music Awards, Femi won Best Male Artist and Best Song for the sexually charged "Beng Beng Beng," and the accolades haven't ceased. Polygram's merger with Universal last year allowed for a full U.S. release of the album on MCA Records, and the exposure that comes with a full-blown U.S. tour over the next two months gives Femi the chance to bring his father's music to a much wider audience.

That was exactly the strategy going into making Shoki Shoki, says Kuti. While Fela had a penchant for 30-minute songs laden with sinuous brass and percussion jams, Femi made sure to keep his tracks taut and combustible, making them more accessible while maintaining their improvisational nature.

"I wanted to do something very compact so that it wouldn't bore the new listener," he says. "Because imagine somebody who is not an Afro-beat lover. You have to catch their attention immediately. My father's songs were more for fanatics and for people who heard him over the years and heard his transformation, and those people are ready to listen to forty-five minutes or even an hour. But somebody who is going to listen to Afro-beat for the first time, what's going to catch his attention? Why would he want to go through an hour of listening to numbers, because he's already used to R&B, he's used to be-bop, he's used to hip hop, he's used to rock, he's not going to want to sit down anywhere for one hour listening to one track."

The explosiveness and rhythmic call-and-response chants of Shoki Shoki made it an immediate darling with some of the top DJs in Europe, and an entire album of remixes, featuring the likes of Kerry Chandler, Chateau Flight and Da Lata, has already been released. "You can do so much with it," says Femi. "You can turn it any way you want, upside down, inside out. There are so many things that a mixer or deejay could use in it."
Three remixes were added on to the end of the U.S. release of the album, one of which was a remix of Femi's black pride anthem "Blackman Know Yourself" by The Roots, carriers of the integrity torch within American black music culture.

While Femi admittedly had little to do with most of the remixes, he actually met with The Roots in a studio in New York City last November while he was there for a performance. He came away from that experience with a newfound appreciation for the group's professionalism and consciousness. Likewise, he spent time in the studio with Common, another one of the artists who are bringing about a creative renaissance in hip hop, and contributed to a track on Common's forthcoming album Like Water for Chocolate. He has also spent time working with Lauryn Hill and D'Angelo, and is clearly open to the possibility of collaborating with other American artists in the future.

"I really love to work with people who know what they are doing and who are very conscious and conscious of their surroundings," says Femi, whose sister, Yeni, and wife Funke, are both members of Positive Force as singers and dancers. "I would really love to work with any good artists really. I'm quite simple and free, and I like experimenting and I just love playing music at the end of the day. They all knew about my father, so it was like, 'Oh wow,' and we got to talking politics and things like that. They all wanted to know about Nigeria, so it was quite interesting." The infusion of elements of American hip-hop and soul music as well as modern dance music techniques have already helped Femi create his own style of Afro-beat for the modern era on Shoki Shoki. The aforementioned fellowships, as well as others that are sure to follow given his remarkable talent and willingness to experiment, are exactly the types of bonds that soul music needs. Whereas Fela created Afro-beat by incorporating both the James Brown-era American funk and the improvisational jazz attitude of John Coltrane and Miles Davis into his country's traditional music, Femi and those lucky enough to work with him could give birth to the next phase of international soul music.

"I live for music. I mean, all I do in Lagos is just practice and write songs and think about what to do next musically," says Femi. "I can't imagine my life without it."


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Femi Kuti (Afrobeat)

Those who have followed his career and have experienced his music know this for a fact: Femi Kuti never felt just satisfied with being the King’s heir. He freed himself from his father’s legacy in ’85 by putting together his own band, The Positive Force, and thereby working to find his own voice. He became, during the ’90s, a renowned artis... more info

Axe' Capoeira (Capoeira & Afro-Brazilian)

We are an international capoeira group and run a martial arts academy in addition to performing shows involving capoeira, acrobatics, traditional Brazilian dances, and a live Brazilian percussion music band. more info
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