This series chronicles significant recordings, people and events in the story of Afrobeat, from its inception until the present day.
Felebration 2013 Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra & Guests 229 London, UK December 14, 2013 The second package show to be staged in London this year in honor of Fela's memory, Felabration 2013--a celebration of what would recently have been his 75th birthday--followed Saluting the Black President, presented at 229 back in May. The format was similar: a fast-moving succession of young, mainly Afrobeats (with an s") artists offering their own spins on some of Fela's best-loved songs, arranged and accompanied by ex-Egypt 80 keyboards player Dele Sosimi and his Afrobeat Orchestra. ...read more
Saluting the Black President Dele Sosimi, Ginger Baker, Tony Allen, Keziah Jones, Afrikan Boy, others 229 London, UK May 17, 2013 Saluting the Black President was presented to mark the release of the second batch of albums in Knitting Factory UK's Fela Anikulapo Kuti reissue program. The event sold out long before the doors opened, with the advance publicity creating some seriously heightened expectations. Among these was the promised reunion of drummers Ginger Baker and Tony Allen--who, until the show's opening at Paris' Zenith the previous evening, had not played together since Afrika ...read more
EMEFEGood FutureEMEFE Music2012For a glorious week and a half in November, London seemed like the epicenter of Afrobeat. Antibalas played Islington Town Hall. Dele Sosimi's Afrobeat Orchestra played Hackney's New Empowering Church. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 played Kentish Town Forum. If only every month could be like that.For most of each year, London's hardcore Afrobeat community lives from one of Sosimi's bimonthly Afrobeat Vibration all-nighters to the next. The event, now in its fifth year, is as close to being at The Shrine as you can get without being ...read more
CrioloNó Na OrelhaSterns Music2012There may be an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, but there's not an awful lot of Afrobeat. So here's some qualitative easing: the opening track on singer/rapper Criolo's Nó Na Orelha ("knot in the ear"). Bogotá" has the rhythms, a turbulent horn arrangement, chopping rhythm guitar, booting tenor saxophone, politically-engaged lyrics and a rebel vibe. It is the real thing with a Brazilian twist.Bogotá" is the only Afrobeat track on Nó Na Orelha, but the rest of the album is delightful, too. Produced by bassist Marcelo ...read more
Ben ZaboBen ZaboGlitterhouse Records2012The extraordinary success of the musical Fela!, and the resurgence of interest in all things Fela Kuti, has made Afrobeat" a popular buzzword among label publicists. The invocation is often fanciful; albums claiming to be Afrobeat releases regularly land at Afrobeat Diaries which have little, if anything, to do with the music.The latest such arrival is from the Malian group Ben Zabo. Malian Afrobeat may be two words that you don't hear together very often," chimes the press release, but 2012's most exciting new Afrobeat band may ...read more
In an illuminating interview, artist and sleeve designer Ghariokwu Lemi talks to Afrobeat Diaries about his work and friendship with Fela Kuti. The interview attests to the indelible link between Lemi's designs and Kuti's music, and to a working relationship which, Lemi reveals, broke down only once, over 1977's Sorrow Tears And Blood. The interview is a follow-up to an earlier one given by Lemi to Afrobeat Diaries, The Art Of Afrobeat. Starting with 1974's Alagbon Close, and continuing through 1989's Beasts Of No Nation, Lemi was responsible for around half of Kuti's album sleeve designs. His ...read more
Ghariokwu Lemi--"born, bred and buttered" in Lagos, Nigeria, where he continues to live--is an artist and graphic designer who created 26 of Fela Kuti's album covers, including many of his most powerful ones. Since his Kuti debut, for 1974's Alagbon Close, Lemi's art has been an integral part of Afrobeat's Pan African message, working hand in hand with the music to identify injustice, educate, galvanize protest and bring about change. Among Lemi's other Africa 70, Afrika 70 and Egypt 80 covers are those for Before I Jump Like Monkey Give Me Banana (1975), Ikoyi Blindness (1976), Kalakuta ...read more
Seun Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80From Africa With Fury: RiseBecause Music2011 It is, almost, too good to be true. With his second album, the aptly titled From Africa With Fury: Rise, co-produced with Brian Eno, Seun Kuti delivers on the promise of his debut, Many Things (Tot Ou Tard, 2008), which inhabited Fela's Afrobeat so resoundingly, and steps forward, his own man. All the music's original signatures are here: insurrectionary lyrics, sung in Yoruba, English and Broken English; symbiotic tenor and rhythm guitars; voluptuous beats; fat, layered horns; blazing ...read more
Fela Power Show: Batch 4 is the concluding, eight-disc chapter in Knitting Factory Records' 26-disc reissue program of Fela Anikulapo Kuti albums and early singles. It starts on the 1979/80 cusp of the dissolution of Afrika 70 and the formation of Egypt 80, when Kuti made the landmark Vagabonds In Power (1979), Coffin For Head Of State (1980) and Original Sufferhead (1981). It finishes with three late masterpieces--Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense (1986), Beasts Of No Nation (1989) and Underground System (1992). Kuti did not record as prolifically during the years covered by Batch 4 as he ...read more
Fela Anikulapo KutiFela Vinyl Box Set 1Knitting Factory Records2011 With the release of the eight-CD and download collection Fela Power Show: Batch 4, two of the strands in Knitting Factory Records' high-end Fela Kuti reissue project have come to a conclusion. All of Kuti's albums are now available on CD and download (and additionally, via Britain's Wrasse Records, collected in one all-encompassing box set, the 27-disc The Complete Works Of Fela Kuti). 2011 is starting to look like completist heaven. And there's more to come, with Knitting Factory's ...read more
Chopteeth Afrofunk Big BandLiveGrigri Discs2011 Washington, DC-based Chopteeth isn't exactly an Afrobeat band, not all of the time anyway. Fela Kuti pieces figure in its set list, but so do belle epoque" tunes from Guinea's Le Simandou De Beyla, Senegal's Orchestra Baobab, Congo's Tabu Ley Rochereau and other African stars of the period. Chopteeth is best described as a post-independence, African music repertory orchestra, in conception not unlike trumpeter Wynton Marsalis's Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra--the difference being that it plays music not native to most of its members' own culture. ...read more
Seun Kuti's From Africa With Fury: Rise, the follow-up to the ferocious Many Things (Tot Au Tard, 2008), is under starter's orders--and Afrobeat Diaries' sneak preview attests that it's a monster, a stone delight of epic proportions. Produced by Brian Eno with John Reynolds and Kuti, with additional input from dub wizard Godwin Logie, the new album features Fela Kuti's son once more fronting Egypt 80 under the leadership of Lekan Animashaun, its founding bandleader, whose time with Fela stretched back to the pioneering years of Afrika 70 and, before that, Koola Lobitos in the mid 1960s. ...read more
Dele SosimiIdentityHelico Records2007 Keyboard player and singer Dele Sosimi, a member of Fela Kuti's Egypt 80 from 1979-86 and Femi Kuti's Positive Force from 1986-94, returned to London, where he was born in 1963, in 1995. A decade and a half later, he leads three bands in the city: the acoustic Afrobeat Trio with bassist Femi Elias and drummer Kunle Olofinjana, the Gbedu septet (which adds horns to the trio's lineup), and the 10-15 piece Afrobeat Orchestra (more horns, guitars and backing vocalists). Since autumn 2010, Sosimi has acted as music ...read more
Dele SosimiTurbulent TimesEko Star2002 Whatever you may think of musicals, and most people either love them or hate them, the New York and London productions of Fela! are to be welcomed. Both have been distinguished as much by their house bands as by their leading actors and dancers, and, as a result, both have done Fela Kuti's legacy proud--confirming, if confirmation was needed, the Afrobeat originator's enduring power to connect. That in itself is something to celebrate. And the shows have also boosted the profiles of the house ...read more
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