Knitting Factory Records & AGMP presents
Saturday, 14 December 2013, 7pm – late, at 229, London
In celebration of Fela Kuti’s 75th birthday and of the release of ‘RED HOT + FELA’
Featuring The Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra together with OLUGBENGA *** Baloji *** Sam Duckworth (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) *** Shingai Shoniwa (Noisettes) *** Afrikan Boy *** TY *** Blak Twang *** ESKA *** Zee Gachette (Z Star) + very special guests + DJ Koichi Sakai (Afrobeat Vibration)
Fela has been gone 16 years now but keeping his legacy alive and introducing his music and message to an ever-growing audience is a mission for Dele and Fela’s legions of admirers. Were he still alive today, 15 October, would have been Fela Kuti’s 75th birthday. This has been celebrated with Felabrations taking place all over the planet (Lagos, Brussels, Paris, 13 across America, Osaka and heaven knows where else). Now it’s London’s turn to pay homage to The Black President.
2013 has been a busy year with Fela’s entire 46 album catalogue having been re-packaged and re-released by Knitting Factory Records. October also saw the release of ‘RED HOT + FELA’, a compilation album containing interpretations of Fela songs by a raft of top drawer artists including Angelique Kidjo, ?uestlove (The Roots), M1 (Dead Prez), Spoek Mathambo, tUnE-yArDs, Nneka, Kronos Quartet, Tony Allen, Baloji, Chance The Rapper, My Morning Jacket and others. All profits from this album go towards HIV/AIDS education and relief worldwide.
The event on 14 December will be a follow-on from the hugely successful and sold-out ‘Saluting The Black President’ show which took place at the same venue in May and brought together Ginger Baker (famed drummer and Fela collaborator), Tony Allen (previously Fela’s drummer), Keziah Jones and many more. Check out some footage from the event here:
"Gentleman" – Afrikan Boy: http://youtu.be/pnyO3n-1Iv8
"Lady" by Shingai Shoniwa & Breis: http://youtu.be/0KqkRNLfGwI
Saturday, 14 December 2013, 7pm until late (show starts 7.45pm) at 229, 229 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5PN, http://www.229thevenue.com/, nearest tubes: Great Portland Street, Regent’s Park
Tickets £20 in advance online from https://agmp.ticketabc.com/events/felabration/, http://www.eventim.co.uk, http://www.ticketweb.co.uk, http://www.seetickets.com, http://www.gigantic.com, http://www.stargreen.com or from the 24-hour ticket line: 0844 249 1000
The artists taking part:
Dele Sosimi @DeleSosimi
Multiple award-winning Afrobeat maestro and keyboard player Dele Sosimi was a usical director of Fela’s Egypt ’80 band (1979-1986), and subsequently founding member, musical director and band leader of Femi Kuti’s Positive Force (1986 to 1994). The Afrobeat musician, composer, producer and educator, now based in the UK, leads the Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra.
Dele about Fela: "To celebrate Fela is more than an honour – it’s my duty. Fela is the reason Afrobeat music is in my DNA, coarsing through the essence of my being and coming out in the various formats that I perform in, to a devout worldwide audience of Afrobeat enthusiasts who will take advantage of every opportunity to savour appreciate and gyrate to this unique genre. The legacy of Fela will live on and pass on from us onto the next generation ad infinitum! Long live Fela! Long live Afrobeat!"
OLUGBENGA has travelled the world working as a bass player and vocalist, lending his talents to groups such as Various Production and Metronomy, but OLUGBENGA is also an electronic music producer in his own right. With his debut releases on Pictures Music and his own Replica Trophy label, OLUGBENGA’s music has been supported by the likes of BBC Radio 1, 6 Music, XFM, Vice / Noisey, Clash – the list goes on. Recently he returned to his birthplace of Lagos, Nigeria, for the first time since his teens to film the captivating video for ‘Silver Pixie, Iyawo Mi’ (http://youtu.be/AMKUZvAkcCw).
OLUGBENGA about Fela: "Fela’s music frequently makes me laugh, always makes me dance, sometimes makes me angry. More than anything else, it never fails to make me feel proud of my country Nigeria and hopeful for its future. For these reasons I celebrate him."
Baloji was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but aged 4 relocated to Belgium with his father. He discovered hip-hop as an adolescent, but his first solo recording, ‘Hotel Impala’ was also coloured with wider ranging influences of soul, Afrobeat and Congolese rhumba. His latest release,’Kinshasa Succursale’, features an all-star line-up of guest musicians including Amp Fiddler and Konono No1. Baloji, together with his band L’Orchestre De La Katuba and featuring Kuku, contributes to the ‘Red Hot + Fela’ album on the track "Buy Africa". A lyric video translates Baloji’s (mainly French) raps and reveals a message of African pride ("Let’s be prideful of our own", "How do we build a wealthy Africa? – Only if we buy our own"): http://youtu.be/I0VVZZ9O5j8
Baloji about Fela: "For me Fela was the music of my parents: Jazz, never ending jazz songs just like Congolese music! So nothing for me to relate to – until Common sampled him, and Dilla and Madlib mentioned him as a major influence. So I went back to it and finally understood that there are so many levels, degrees of reading in his music. Rap made me discover soul music but Fela made me understand how we can be inspired and capable of creating our own version of it without jeopardising our identity."
Sam Duckworth (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) @forgetcape
Singer songwriter, Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly is a prominent, dissenting voice in the British music scene. From the Pyramid stage to the Africa Express (whilst not being afraid of getting his hands dirty,) the troubadour can be found with his unique blend of acoustic folk and electronica.
Sam about Fela: "Fela was a revolutionary, musical and political. Few could deliver the truth in such style, but only Fela Kuti could deliver with such soul. A powerful songwriter and a compelling storyteller, accompanied by some of the very best musicians of all time."
Shingai Shoniwa (Noisettes) @noisettes
Born to Zimbabwean parents Shingai Shoniwa is the vocalist and bassist of London-based indie rock band Noisettes. A formidable live performer, Shingai represents the spirit of the strong African woman, like Fela’s mother and his Queens. And she is no stranger to outrageous costumes.
Shingai about Fela: "I am very proud to be honouring Fela. His classic song ‘Lady’ is an uplifting masterpiece that celebrates the role and impact of women in African society. Throughout the lyrics Fela effortlessly cites what he loves about the attitude and grace of the ‘African Woman’ with a timeless wordplay, powerful enough to make you laugh until you cry. Fela’s poetic observation inspires me to no end as a musician and performer, proudly infusing my African roots throughout my international work. I’ll be looking forward to channeling the spirit of our great uncle of Afrobeat on stage. It won’t be long until you realise that you haven’t danced until you’ve danced the ‘fire dance’."
Afrikan Boy @AfrikanBoy
Nigerian-born London-based grime MC Afrikan Boy has worked with artists such as M.I.A. and The Very Best and has performed globally, including at Damon Albarn’s Afrika Express shows. His recent hit song "Hit ‘Em Up" contained a Fela Kuti sample (http://youtu.be/8HtmgrzcP1U) and has been on steady rotation on BBC Radio 6 Music, 1Xtra and many more.
Afrikan Boy about Fela: "This project is the closest I will get to our late Black President. Fela was and still is a huge fountain of inspiration to my music. In many ways you can say he lives through our music through his music. The new generation is learning and taking his messages to the new world. I represent the image and power of Fela through my own performances to remind people of our roots and culture! I no be gentleman at all o! I be Afrikan Boy Original!"
A consummate live performer, with a career spanning more than a decade, rapper and producer TY, born Ben Chijioke, has worked alongside other hip-hop greats such as Scratch Perverts, Talib Kweli and Arrested Development, collaborating on tracks with a whole host of artists, including De La Soul.
TY about Fela: "It’s an honour to celebrate the legacy of one of the most important men in music. Working with Tony Allen has helped me appreciate the intricacies in Fela’s work, his flawless band leadership is something that I take with me everywhere I go. True Afrobeat is hypnotic, yet noble."
Blak Twang @BlakTwang
One of the pioneers of UK hip-hop, Blak Twang is famed for his worldwide live performances and his ability to seamlessly blend London slang with conscious lyrics. This unique technique makes him a firm favourite with hip-hop fans as the original South London Rebel.
Blak Twang about Fela: "Growing up in my house, my parents played lots of Fela’s music. My family and Fela’s family are from the same area in Abeokuta and they attended the same church where Fela’s father was the Pastor. Fela was like the superhero, the people’s Champion that was the voice of the voiceless. When I was asked to be a part of it, I was honoured because his music has truly been a big influence on my musical content and helped shape me as the artist I am today."
One of music’s best kept secrets releases her ‘Gatekeeper’ EP this November. ESKA is the most talked about, revered, internationally known singer you’ve never heard of. Having built an inimitable reputation as a writer and performer with such legends as Grace Jones, Cinematic Orchestra, Zero 7 and Bobby McFerrin to name a few, her debut release is an enchanting and timeless creation which echoes past traditions whilst at the same time managing to surprise with its stunning originality.
Eska about Fela: "It is an honour to pay tribute to a pioneering artist whose history was great but whose legacy is even greater as we all continue to benefit from it."
Zee Gachette (Z-Star) @ZSTARMUSIC
Zee Gachette musically described as “the lovechild of Jimi Hendrix and Nina Simone” by many and as "a force of nature" by none other than Jimmy Page, has a myth-like reputation that quietly spans the globe. A charismatic and explosive front woman (Z-STAR / SLOWTRAINSOUL), she has performed on international stages to audiences of up to 250,000 (alongside Eric Clapton, Angelique Kidjo, Nigel Kennedy, Keziah Jones, Youssou N’Dour) and her music has been featured on TV and film worldwide.
Zee about Fela: "Fela pushed so many boundaries, socially and politically his music spoke for the people, he was a revolutionary. The vibrant landscape of his legacy Afrobeat continues to influence modern dance music today. Fela is always a huge inspiration to my music, its an honour to be a part of this homage to such a great musical innovator."
DJ Koichi Sakai (Afrobeat Vibration) @koichisakai
Koichi Sakai is a DJ, producer and the founder of legendary Afrobeat Vibration with Dele Sosimi. His passion of Afrobeat made him to produce the cover version of Fela’s classic ‘Eko Ile’ featuring Adesose Wallece, which is available on limited 7" vinyl and digital on iTunes.
Koichi about Fela: "When I discovered Fela’s music, I was impressed that structure of Afrobeat is just like house music. As I dug more, Fela’s colourful life and personality got me into more Afrobeat musically and spiritually. I adore him so much."
Nigerian icon and Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti passed away 16 years ago but to this day his legacy lives on across the globe with his still-relevant, forthright political beliefs and powerful music. Fela was very vocal in his views, with biting, acerbic critiques of European cultural imperialism, corrupt African governments and any forms of social injustice. This did not go down well with Nigeria’s military regimes during the 70s and 80s who routinely harassed and brutalised Fela and his supporters. Two hundred arrests, serious beatings that left scars all over his body whilst fighting for those who had ‘drawn life’s short straw’, never stopped him from coming forward, again and again. "Ah well, they didn’t kill me," he would say. On 2 August 1997 Fela died – and a million people, the people he fought for, came to his funeral in Lagos to pay their last respects.
Afrobeat, the music Fela created, didn’t die. Fela’s sons, Femi Kuti with his band Positive Force and Seun Kuti with Fela’s band Egypt 80, both travel the world and release their albums, keeping the flame burning brightly. But it’s not just Nigerian Afrobeat artists who make sure Afrobeat can be heard all over the planet: There are now in excess of 50 Afrobeat bands operating in Europe, the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia.
Fela even made it to Broadway: the Broadway hit musical, Fela!, recipient of 11 Tony nominations and three awards, directed by Tony award-winner, Bill T. Jones, with producer-backing from Jay-Z, Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith among others, continues to play in the world’s most prestigious theatres. In 2011 the musical ‘came home’ to Lagos, opening at the New Afrika Shrine (the venue which was opened by Fela’s children Femi and Yeni in 2000 to replace Fela’s original Shrine) and then on to the Eko Center on Victoria Island where it received a tumultuous reception, playing to 3,500 people each night. The show last toured from February to June 2013 across the United States, and there are now plans afoot for the musical to visit other parts of the world in 2014 (see http://www.felaonbroadway.com/).
In recognition of Fela’s burgeoning global stature, Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney is currently making the definitive Fela documentary, due for cinematic release in the Spring of 2014. Also, a feature film of Fela’s life and times is in the works with Focus Features, with Chiwetel Ejiofor cast in the role of Fela. The film is to be directed by Andrew Dosunmu.
Back in Lagos, Fela’s old home, Kalakuta, has recently been transformed into the Kalakuta Museum, aided by a $250,000 grant from Lagos State Government who finally, and thankfully, have recognised his international cultural significance. Fela’s continuing relevance in his home country was made clear during the 2012 national protests at the government’s removal of the oil subsidy which effectively doubled the price of petrol overnight. His music was anthemic to the huge ensuing nation-wide public demonstrations which become known as Occupy Nigeria. "Listen to what Fela was saying 30 years ago," was heard all over the country, "and it’s still true today!"
Meanwhile, the new phenomena of ‘Afrobeats,’ performed by a digital-age generation of young African artists, is entering the mainstream charts with Nigerian acts like D’banj, Ice Prince and Wizkid leading the way. While musically and lyrically departing from Fela’s Afrobeat these artists are still paying homage to the man by adopting Afrobeats as the genre’s name, and at the annual Felabration festival in Lagos, held around Fela’s birthday (15 October), many of them perform in honour of one of Africa’s true icons.
This year the complete works of Fela, consisting of almost 50 albums, have now been re-packaged, with in-depth track commentaries written by Afrobeat historian Chris May, and have been released in three batches throughout 2013, by Knitting Factory Records, a label which was originally founded in 2002 as an offshoot of the celebrated Knitting Factory club in downtown Manhattan. The first batch of reissues was spearheaded by ‘The Best Of The Black President 2’, a 2CD collection (KFR1029-2) with a foreword written by Senegalese-American R&B/hip-hop artist Akon. A special deluxe edition of the compilation also includes a DVD of Fela’s legendary 1984 Glastonbury concert (KFR1029-5). Also available is ‘The Complete Works’ of Fela Anikulapo Kuti in a deluxe box – 26 CDs (containing 46 albums) and a bonus DVD (KFR5004).
‘Sorrow Tears & Blood’ video (edit): http://youtu.be/F4ZUnPWxgvc
‘Sorrow Tears & Blood’ video (full version): http://youtu.be/tj1wpNuQRaM
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Egypt 80 – Live at the Zenith, Paris in 1984
Clip 1: http://youtu.be/Z7OB9W0cAzs
Clip 2 ("Beasts Of No Nation"): http://youtu.be/E0BhNPiq78k
Clip 3: http://youtu.be/DDPChDbZqs0
‘RED HOT + FELA’
Out now on Knitting Factory Records
Celebrating the 75th anniversary of Fela Kuti’s birth and uniting an eclectic, collaborative roster of artists from the USA and Africa in the name of AIDS awareness, with all profits going to combat HIV/AIDS. Featured on the thirteen Fela Kuti reworkings are Angelique Kidjo, ?uestlove (The Roots), M1 (Dead Prez), Spoek Mathambo, tUnE-yArDs, Nneka, Kronos Quartet, Tony Allen, Baloji, Chance The Rapper, My Morning Jacket and many more.
"What makes this album truly exciting is the way it sounds so new and inventive while acknowledging Fela’s sound … ‘Red Hot + Fela’ works both as an introduction to Afrobeat, and as reworking of the genre, making it a fitting tribute not just to Fela’s music but also his indomitable spirit." 8/10 NME
"Often radical reinterpretations of the Nigerian legend’s best work … "Lady" and "Zombie" take on a whole different meaning reinterpreted by women and the lounge-soul taming of "Go Slow" is exquisite … Angélique Kidjo, tUnE-yArDs, Nneka and many others should congratulate themselves. Fela would approve." ***** The Independent on Sunday
"… The Kronos Quartet pull off a reflective, chamber version of Sorrow Tears and Blood, and Fela’s acute social commentary resonates throughout. A worthy homage." The Observer
1. "Buy Africa" – Baloji & L’Orchestre De La Katuba featuring Kuku Listen: https://soundcloud.com/knittingfactoryrecords/buy-africa-baloji-lorchestre Watch: http://youtu.be/I0VVZZ9O5j8
2. "Lady" – tUnE-yArDs, ?uestlove, Angelique Kidjo + Akua Naru Listen: https://soundcloud.com/knittingfactoryrecords/tune-yards-angelique-kidjo/ Watch: http://youtu.be/cBkuTLkHHq4
3. "Yellow Fever" – Spoek Mathambo + Zaki Ibrahim
4. "No Buredi" – Nneka, Sinkane, Amayo + Superhuman Happiness
5. "Who No Know Go Know" – Just A Band + Childish Gambino
6. "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" – My Morning Jacket w/ Merrill Garbus + Brittany Howard Watch: http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com/assets/core/video/?tin=0&configId=26409&id=n41891&fw=late_night_fallon_video_library
7. "Sorrow Tears and Blood" – Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, Kronos Quartet + Stuart Bogie
8. "ITT" – Superhuman Happiness w/ Sahr Ngaujah, Abena Koomson + Rubblebucket
9. "Afrodisco Beat 2013" – Tony Allen, M1 + Baloji
10. "Gentleman" – Just A Band, Bajah + Chance the Rapper
11. "Hi Life Time" – Gender Infinity
12. "Zombie" – Spoek Mathambo + Cerebral Cortex + Frown
13. "Go Slow" – King
RED HOT + FELA