Aug 31, 2009
Although he is fondly called O.J by his friends and admirers, Orlando is real names are Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode. An indigene of Ilesha in Osun State, he was born in Ikole-Ekiti to a trading family His father first traded in Abeokuta before moving to Ikole-Ekiti, where he was given a piece of land by the traditional ruler of the town and encouraged to settle there.
Orlando is the fourth son in the family and the younger brother of professor Gabriel Ekemode, of the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) his journey into music began many years ago when he was a pupil of St. Peter’s Anglican School, Ikole-Ekiti . As a lad, he played the drums and flute for the school band, as well as for a local band known as Mambo dance band. After finishing school in 1957 and consequent upon the death of his father in the same year, he left Ikole-Ekiti for Ibadan (the then capital of the Western region) in search of a job. While in the city, he worked as a bakery assistant and at the same time, tried to keep alive his dream of pursing a career in music by stringing along with a few musicians who desired his services as a drummer and flutist.
He went to play at a time under J. Oyeshiku and Cotey Necoy of Ghanan and Julius Araba but his real wish was to become a saxophonist. And so, in keeping with the tradition of the time, he took up apprenticeship with Ademola Haastrup (aka. Jazz Romero) band and one of the brightest horns men around then. Orlando landed a job with Romero’s band (Action Group) playing trap drums.
To a large extent, Orlando Julius aids his success as a musician to the persisting influence of his experience in Ibadan. He cherishes most of those early days with the Action Group Band. He was not only impressed with the band’s organization but also reckoned it to be the best equip(musical instrument) band in the country and it provide a great opportunity for up-coming musicians to practice there skill and become professionals.
Early 1958 Orlando Julius went to Ondo State with Haastrup to start the Modupe Dance Band while in Ondo State, played drum-set with the band while Learning saxophone at the time, with his master. June 1958, was when Orlando Began to play the alto saxophone for the first time on stage. Towards the end of “58 the Band moved on to Akure-Ekiti, to the Flamingo Hotel and became the “Flamingo Dandies Band”. Jazz Romero abandoned the band after a misunderstanding with the owner of the hotel. Orlando became the band leader after a decision by the band members. Although the band members felt that Orlando has what it takes to lead. His own belief was that he was not yet experience enough to handle such responsibility at the time. After a short while Orlando decided to move back to Ibadan to get more experience.
After relocating back to Ibadan, Orlando returned to Action Group Band. He also traveled in between Lagos and Ibadan frequently. While in Lagos, Orlando played Nyingifa ‘s band, and also at “Mayflower Club” in Ibadan with Rex Williams. In 1959 Orlando landed a job with Eddie Okonta and “His Top Aces” band at Central Hotel, also Paradise Club. While playing with Eddie Okonta, Orlando had the opportunity to welcome Louis Armstrong to Ibadan.
Louis Armstrong performed and presented Eddie Okonta a special trumpet,with golden mouthpiece and his white handkerchief. Working with Mr. Okonta was a great opportunity for Orlando, He always loved Eddie Okonta’s music, and in fact he used to stand on a pile of blocks so he can see him play at Paradise in mid “57 So now working with him was like a miracle that put Orlando on the right path.
Orlando was constantly writing songs and modernizing High-Life music, since working with the Flamingo Dandies. While working with Eddie Okonta, he was made the “horn arranger” and parts scorer. With Eddie Okonta, Orlando Julius, played on WNTV, Ibadan ”First in Africa”. Also he toured Nigeria with Eddie Okonta and His Top Aces.
In 1960,after the Independence celebration Orlando traveled to Ijebu-Ode to work with the “Right Time Dance Band”, where he first met Y.S. Akinibosun the leader of the band. He worked with the band for over six months. After meeting his brother I.K.Diaro and his band at a gig in Ijebu-Ode, I.K.Diaro convinced Orlando to come back home to Ijesha land to lead the “I.K.’s Dance Band. While leading I.K’s Dance band he recorded his first single in 1961,”Igbehin Adara” and “Jola Ade”. In NBC Radio Station in Ibadan on Alowonle records. Orlando also co-written and arranged some of I.K.Dairo’s hits such as “Solome”,Bola Ti To”,and others. The dance band lead by Orlando Julius also backed I.K. Diaro on some high-life recordings.
By 1963 Orlando started forming “His Modern Aces” band in Ibadan. The name Modern Aces was because of Orlando’s style and modernization of “Highlife”. Orlando Julius and His Modern Aces played Parties Universities, Clubs, weddings etc;. The band was hot; in 1963 Orlando recorded with “Phillips records”. The song Jaguar Nana on a single along with Ishe Logun Ishe on the flip side. The song sold millions in the country and outside the country, but unfortunately, Phillips took Orlando and his band for a ride because Orlando never received any royalties for his records. Phillips paid five pounds for a single and that five pounds had to take care of the whole band. It is said that the single sold over a million copies.
In mid 1964,with the success of Jaguar Nana, Orlando got a contract to play a Television weekend show on WNTV for a few quarters. The producer for the show was Segun Shofowote, during this time he met and worked with Ambassador Segun Olusola and many other TV house producers like Orlando Martins. Also Orlando was contracted to play on “Bar Beach Show" on channel 10 in Lagos, were he worked with producer Art Alade and others where he and his band played for two quarters. Between the years of 1963 and 64 Orlando and His Modern Aces continued to play many engagements including Havana Festival at the University of Ibadan and all Universities in Nigeria, including Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s birthday, Chief Rotimi Willams 25th anniversary, to name a few of the many “Big” engagements.
Orlando never stopped writing and arranging his creative style of music. While living in Ibadan, Orlando performed in the Independence Hotel. It was the talk of the town. As he experimented with his new style his modern highlife took a form of more contemporary style of high life, fusing modern highlife with jazz and also soul. Fela-Ransome Kuti And Orlando first met at the Independence Hotel were Orlando featured Fela playing trumpet. Also many big names at the time played at Independence Hotel on Orlando’s invitation like I.K. Diaro, Rex Lawson, Paramount 8 from Ghana ,Eric Akaeze,Bola Johnson, Biodun Bakare, Tunji Oyelana and others. Jimi
Sholanke was Orlando’s first vocalist from I.K.’s band, Eddie Fayehun played trumpet, Moses Akanbi on trap drums to mention a few.
1967 was when Orlando changed the bands’ name to Afro-Sounders, since his music had a sound of it’s own with the Afro and the Soul, he thought that Afro Sounders was a more appropriate name for the band. More hits like Topless, Ijo Soul Ololufe, Ese rere; were out at this time.
1968 to 1970 Orlando Julius and His Afro-Sounders dished out more powerful music with Alo Mi Alo, Sweet Home, Erora Miliki, Amin Ase, Erora Yio Sida, Psychedelic Afro Shop and James Brown Ride On. Orlando met James Brown when he came to Ibadan with his band the JB’s he also had Bootsie Collins with him. Orlando and his band had a serious jam session in 1969. Orlando and His Afro Sounders continued to play engagements and club dates east, north ,west and south. Hakeem Kareem was with Afro Sounders in the beginning.
In 1972 Orlando traveled to Germany, London, Swisserland, and also U.S. on Polders invitation., with whom his album was released. Orlando’s band continued to Play even as he traveled, Club Chicago was the spot for the Afro Sounders in Surulere, also Gondola night club, Bata Koto,and many others in Lagos.
Orlando finally left for the U.S. in 1974 after recording Disco Highlife and Children of the World, featuring Dora Ifodu. Orlando lived in Manhattan, New York, but soon moved over to Washington D.C.. While in there, he worked with Melvin Deal in arts in residence program, during this time Orlando wasted no time in forming a band. The groups name” Umoja” ,with Gboyega Adelaja,Stanley Todd, Frankie Todd, Asante, Harry Opoku,and Glenn Warren, (The son of Guy Warren, the greatest drummer in Ghana).Umoja has played with Isaac Hayes,Chaka Khan & Rufus, Gil Scot Herron, the Ojays,Gladys Knight & the Pips, Harold Melvin and the Blue notes, Staple Singers ,Curtis Mayfield . Ron Hood was the promoter and manager of Umoja, he loved African music and he really did his best to promote Umoja and book them with the best the west had to offer. Orlando and Umoja would always be grateful for Ron’s efforts. When Hugh Masekela came to Umoja’s rehearsal, he was instantly excited about working with the band after hearing Orlando’s” Ashiko”. Umoja toured and recorded with Hugh Masekela,Orlando took a big part in the production of the albums “The Boy’s Doing It” and “Colonial Man”.
In 1975 , after the success of Hugh Masekela’s The Boys Doin It, the band toured the U.S,Canada, Hawaii, Ghana, and Liberia . They Played with Grover Washington, Sara Vaughn, Isley Brothers, Miles Davis, Nina Simone,Herbie Hancock,(At the Carnigie Hall) ). Orlando played with Hugh Masekela for two years, recording and producing with Hugh Masekela, and performing with his band “Ojah”, backing Hugh. He left Hugh Masekela after being disappointed with producing credits, and once again formed the band ”Ashiko” in Washington D.C. the band played East coast and Midwestern states, before moving to California.
In 1977 Orlando met Lamont Dozier through producer Stuart Levine, and co- produced “Going Back to My Roots”. Although Orlando’s music was used from his hit Ashiko, and the chants and chorus and percussions was all of Orlando’s arrangement, Lamont Dozier and his producer only gave OJ translation credits, instead of composition, arrangement and performing credits. The song was the first time that A Nigerian artiste would record, in his own language with an American counter part on commercial radio in U.S. ,the song was a big success. The song was also done by the London Group “Odessey”, taking the song to number five on the world chart. Orlando Julius also had the oppourtunity to appear in the classic movie “Roots the Next Generation., through OJ.Simpson, the famous Footballer. He worked with James Earl Jones, Shamsi Sarumi,one of Ambrose Campbell’s musicians, also Peter Badejo.
1978 Orlando moved back to the Bay Area near San Francisco. To further his knowledge in the recording field, he studied audio engineering and production in Bear west Studios and also studied film production at the Berkeley Film Institute. Orlando also attended Lanely College for photography, television production and also some music courses. While studying he was still performing and creating a world beat movement in the Bay area Orlando took his brand of music and taught American musicians much about world beat rhythms and Afro Beat music. Under his tutelage Many “World Beat bands formed through out the Bay Area and in San Francisco. Orlando played Colleges ,clubs dates and festivals with his friend C.K. Ladzekpo, from Ghana, who is a professor of music in U.C. Berkeley.
Orlando taught many American musicians in the Bay Area, Highlife, Afro Beat, Percussions and more. He also had dance and drum workshops while on the road at many community centers and universities .Many of his students also played live gigs with Orlando and went on to form their own bands, namely “Big City”, “Freaky Executives”, “Zulu Spear” and more. Also at the “Scarab Club” in Berkeley ,California ,Orlando and His band “Ashiko” would feature with musicians from different popular groups, like the Escovedo family,including Sheila E,Coke Escovedo and also Pete Escovedo. He continued to play in U.S. on the same bill as John Lee Hooker, B.B.King, and Art Blakey at the Keystone Corner, in San Franscico. All this took place between the years of 1980 –1983. By the next year Orlando would return home To Nigria to record his album “Dance Afro Beat”,at EMI Studios in Lagos.
Orlando Julius along with Prof. C.K. Ladzekpo from Ghana both came up with the name “WORLD BEAT MUSIC” that Santana management: Bill Graham help them launched at the GREEK THEATRE in Berkeley California. And today “World Beat Music” is one of major Gammy Awards thanks to The Legend Orlando Julius & Prof. C.K.Ladzekpo.
1984 after returning from Nigeria, he finished the production of the album Dance Afro Beat, and released it in California. With the success of the album, Orlando decided to return once again, to Nigeria to produce Dance Afro Beat video and release the album in Nigeria. The video “Adara “ was recorded in the Osun Shrine ,and “Dance Afro Beat” was recorded in Badagry at the beach. The video “Ishe was also included, many young artistes remember the song “Ishe" and said that it inspired them to work hard and to be responsible. The video was shot by Cinecraft ,director of photography Tunde Kelani, sound ,Wale Fanu and produced and directed by Orlando Julius. The music videos were a huge success. The medis houses played them over and over . It was the videos that set the pace for home videos, and also music videos because of its professional production and the fact that it was done in Nigeria, showing the beauty, nature and the hard work of the people and the land. With the hope of sharing this beauty and music abroad, despite the fact that Orlando had many musicians to work with in the U.S, he embarked on a project and took 21 musicians in 1985 to the U.S. for a musical tour.
Orlando continued to tour with the Nigerian Allstars, although the band had different musicians the music remained the same, Magic! People were and still are very tripped with Orlando’s style of music. While playing in Boston at the “Night Stage” Orlando did a drum and music workshop for the “Berkely School of Music”, he brought students from the workshop to the Night Stage that night and they had great fun.
By the year 1987 was the first year OJ Ekemode and His Nigerian Allstars played the New Orleans Jazz Festival, he went to play again in 1989 and 1992. He also record the album “Sisi Sade”in 1989 and “We Pray for Peace” in 1991.under his own label Ashiko Records.
1992 Orlando and his Nigerian Allstars toured heavily in the states featuring in many festivals with many big names. As Orlando says,” some things you just can’t buy with money and the experience of playing and meeting so many big names, like Ray Charles B.B.King, The Temptations, Smoky Robinson, Ohio Players, Sun Ra, and playing many World Beat Festivals, Reggae Festivals, like Reggae on the River is something that I will always cherish, not only to play the same bill but to meet and get to know many great musicians and artistes that loves my music “.They treat you with respect like the International Star and want to know more about Nigeria and its music. ”That makes me happy”. Also while in California Orlando record two music videos for His Big Brother the late Chief Isaac Kehinde Diaro MBE. Also Carlos Santana personally selected Orlando and his Nigerian All-stars to accompany him to Hawaii to play his annual festival. While in Hawaii,The Nigerian flag was flown very in front of the stage along with other flags of artistes’ countries who participated in the concert. This also made Orlando very proud not only for himself but also for Nigeria.
1994 Orlando and Latoya moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to be closer and to work with Ambrose Campbell, who by the way introduced Orlando to Latoya in 1978. While in Nashville Orlando continued his televison program ”AFROBEAT VIDEOS". The program presented African music videos, which was something new to Nashville, also Orlando ,along with Latoya constructed “Afro Beat Studios” in a Soho type wharehouse . there he recorded The Legend Continues ” CD. The Studio was also used for video shoots, parties, workshops etc. Disney World released the movie Lion King in Florida and Orlando and His Nigerian All Stars were chosen to play for the release because of the African theme of the movie , after the release he was invited by popular demand twice, to play for Disney World.
December 1995 Orlando and his band were contracted to play the Green Moon Festival, sponsored by Texaco, in San Andreas, Colombia. On this trip,Orlando performed with many artistes from Cuba,Zaire, Jamacia and so on, but Orlando’s music stood out the most, he was well received from the people of Colombia,because his music remined them of Africa, their ancestral home. People from Brazil came over to the festival to especially meet Orlando and sing his song “Adara” to him . Orlando was pleasantly surprised. Orlando let the people of SanAndreas remember Africa and they in returned reminded Orlando of Nigeria. That is how he wrote the song “Colombia”.The food, the atmosphere the beautiful African women .And it was also the beginning of Orlando’s return home, to Nigeria.
1997 Orlando’s home sickness become profound, and he decided to return to Nigeria. After his visit in 1997 he was convinced that no matter the situation, home is home and home is sweet. So Orlando and Latoya moved to Nigeria in December 1998.
1999 Orlando quickly set up shop in Surulere Lagos, a recording and rehearsal studio. He recruited musicians and formed his band Nigerian All-Stars. Orlando has played for Lagos State functions,(Governor Tinubu’s Inauguration ,Agbani Daregos’ visit)and featured in concerts for ,French Cultural Center. He also has featured on NTA”s “Morning Ride” programme for a few season’s, adding quality production in sound for transmission is a statement for his professionalism in production. Orlando also featured in the first annual “Black Heritage Festival”. Orlando’s original recording “Super Afro Soul” was released by Afro Strut Records, London, 2000 and has had great reviews and Sales. The album was recorded in 1965 .
Orlando spearheaded “The Nigerian Musicians Forum,” with the help of Eko FM and LTV8 in the year 2001 to tackle the existing problems of the nations ailing music industry. The forum openly discusses the issues of piracy, mechanical fees, professionalism, past problems and solutions. Also since his arrival Orlando has met up with some of his colleagues and mentor’s, and has been assisting them in recording their works. Orlando, a staunch believer in playing Nigerian music more on TV and radio has openly discussed his disappointment with the media for promoting more foreign than to help develop and promote their own Nigerian artistes in the field of music, drama, production and so forth. Orlando has done movie soundtracks for Wale Fanu “Owo Blow”,Tunde Kelani’s “Saworoide”,Tunji Bamishigbin’s “Eku Ida”,and many others. His analog studio craftsmanship attracts
artistes that like to perform live analog music ,and drumming like Ogunde’s “Erin Losa”. And many gospel artistes like Mr. Akatu Alphonsus Aloga’s “Point of Anger”.
Orlando will be celebrating over 40 years in the music industry. To support this effort he will be releasing “The Legend Continues” into the market along side his release with Premier Records, “Ololufe mi”. Orlando has been working very hard to revive “Highlife music, from the legends,he has recorded Fatai Rolling Dollar,
Alaba Pedro(Guitarist from Roy Chicago’s band), others include Tunde Osofisan, Papa J. This in Orlando’s way is one of his contributions to keeping Nigerian music and musicians forging ahead. Orlando has also challenged the younger artistes to be original and to use live music in their performances. They can do hip hop and other music with western influence, but also represent your own culture and lifestyle by doing more Highlife and Afro Beat .Orlando has also produced his singer/dancer wife Latoya Aduke in producing her works, not only in her afro soul music, but also produced her singing Nigerian music in Nigerian language.
It is very hard to put over forty years of a man’s life and times in just a few pages. This little information, I hope will assist you in your efforts and help you to know more about the man, the musician,” Orlando Julius”. He has worked very hard and has not had the easiest of times in his career, but he definitely has contributed to the Nigerian music scene in no small way and also has been, and still is a great influence to musicians here in Nigeria and also America and beyond. He is still going strong in his performances, a Master Saxophonist, songwriter, arranger; and producer. He continues to perform with his band The Nigerian All-stars to the delight of young and old.
01. a dara
02. aye le
04. dance afro-beat
05. awade (here we come)
Labels: Orlando Julius
Aug 30, 2009
Touching down, Joystone begins with ‘Anywhere, Anytime’, a quirky upbeat track laced with a lovely looping beat. Jimi Tenor’s readiness is professed on top of the range of intriguing sounds, organ, guitar, horns and electronic effects all combining melodiously.
A terrific start to the album continues with ‘I Wanna Hook Up’, a future anthem perhaps, as is a latter tune — ‘Sunrise’, both possessing hands-in-the-air qualities! ‘Hot Baby’ and ‘Bedroom Eyes’ are songs for the bedroom with moans reminiscent of Chakachas’ ‘Jungle Fever’. The album is energised throughout with the awesome polyrhythmic percussion of Kabu Kabu, a contingent from West Africa, led by Nicholas Addo-Nettey, a former member of Fela Kuti’s band. The steady dark mood of ‘Smoking’ and bursts of hand drumming in ‘Horror Water’ are personal favourite percussive moments.
‘Hermetic Man’ has a timeless groove and cheery mood with lovely play between drums and organ. Tenor’s arrangement skills are regularly displayed through the album. ‘Horror Water’ needs to be heard with its fiery guitar and pumping bassline. Closing ‘Joystone’ is ‘Dede’, monumental uncomplicated bass mixed with lush flute and head-bopping drums. Timo Lassy and Jukka Eskola’s contributions to Joystone should not be over-looked, these two brilliant horn players are making phenomenal music with the Five Corners Quintet or within solo projects. The Finnish jazz scene is one that is taking music further and these players look set to continue maturing and impressing audiences across the globe.
Jimi Tenor and a host of high calibre guests, including his wife Nicole Willis have conjured a spectacular album. The music deserves to be heard by a mainstream audience. His broad appreciation of many sounds comes together in the adeptness and authenticity of whichever genre he turns his hand or ear to. Joystone brings a fabulous array of artists to mind — Stevie Wonder, Fela Kuti, Serge Gainsborg, and contemporary figures, Shaun Lee and Matthew Herbert.
Joystone sees Jimi Tenor reuniting with Sähkö Recordings, the label he began his solo career with, international distribution will be by Ubiquity, who only release quality music. Songs from the album have already been played by DJs including Gilles Peterson, Toshio Matsuura, Jazzanova and Andrew Meza from BTS Radio, currently the hottest radio show on the planet.
Joystone is the latest musical excursion by the ever-inventive arranger, composer and musician Jimi Tenor, who has curiously been dubbed the ‘Elton John of Jazz’ and the ‘Barry White of Finland’. The ringleader teams with Kabu Kabu, a trio of West African musicians and ex-Fela Kuti sidemen led by Nicholas Addo Nettey. He has also called on leading players in the budding Finnish jazz scene - trumpeter Jukka Eskola and saxophonist Timo Lassey. The result is a mash of Scandinavian jazz and poly-rhythmic Afro-beat with playful, captivating melodies - making Joystone literally a joy to listen to. Despite its warm sunny feel, the album was conceived in Finland and beautifully recorded, mixed and produced entirely by Dider Selin. Hermatic Man is classic Tenor, with loping melodic passages and subtle hints of 1970s prog jazz. The sly spacey funk of Smoking contrasts the playful up-tempo I Wanna Hook Up With You, while album closer Dede takes the inventiveness further. A cinematic seven-minute opus, it showcases the halkofon - a one-of-a-kind instrument invented and built by Tenor from sticks of wood used to heat up the Finnish sauna. This music deserves to be heard by a mainstream audience - an audience seeking something unique and special.
01. anywhere, anytime 6:56
02. green grass 1:46
03. i wanna hook up with you 4:13
04. hot baby 5:16
05. bedroom eyes 5:14
06. hermetic man 3:44
07. love is the only god 5:19
08. ariane 4:19
09. smoking 6:03
10. horror water 3:42
11. sunrise 8:09
12. dede 7:07
Labels: Jimi Tenor And Kabu Kabu
Aug 28, 2009
Chopteeth is a 14-piece Afrofunk orchestra exploring the common groove between the funkiest, most hip-shakin’ West African and American popular music on the planet.
The core of the Chopteeth sound is Afrobeat: a big-band funk invented by Fela Kuti in 1970’s Nigeria. Afrobeat is a spicy stew of modern jazz, Yoruba tribal music and burning, James Brown-inspired rhythms.
Chopteeth’s sets feature original compositions along with updates of African dance classics, all while remaining true to the spirit of the music and its message. Band members step to the mic to serve up lyrics in a total of seven different languages.
In February 2009, the musicians and music professionals who are the members of the Washington Area Music Association voted the band Artist of the Year in their annual Wammie Award voting. In 2009 the band also won it's second Wammie Award for Best World Music Group as well as the awards for Debut CD of the Year and Best World Music CD.
Chopteeth performs frequently at numerous festivals including Artscape, The Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, The National Capitol Bar-B-Que Battle, The Adams Morgan Day Festival, Columbia Festival of the Arts, Taste of Bethesda Festival, The Baltimore Book Festival, The Baltimore Waterfront Festival, The Herndon Jazz Festival, The Takoma Park Folk Festival and The Takoma Park Street Festival and many others.
Chopteeth can also be seen regularly at top venues in Washington, DC, Baltimore and Virginia such as The Kennedy Center, Strathmore Arts Center, The 9:30 Club, The Black Cat, Rock And Roll Hotel, The State Theatre, The Clarendon Ballroom, The 8x10 Club, Ottobar and Iota. The band has opened for critically acclaimed world music and jazz-funk groups including Chuck Brown, Konono No. 1, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, The Pietasters, Soulive, Greyboy Allstars and Toubab Krewe.
“A storming powerhouse of big-band African funk, Chopteeth is smart, tight and relentlessly driving...a definite don't-miss. Their live shows have been known to make even the most motionless of concert-watchers flail their limbs and do something that resembles dancing. Only the most determined stoics will be able to resist the grooves conjured up by Chopteeth.” — The Washington Post
“Wonderfully fresh…Chopteeth can lock into a groove and hold it tight, but still give the feeling of freedom. This is music that makes you want to move.” — Allmusic.com
“Chopteeth crafts its own unique brand of songs that gleefully draw on everything from salsa to soukous to Balkan-style time signatures. This eclectic approach to composition takes the band from upbeat Swahili lyrics over a South African pulse one second (Upendo), to spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals the next (Herky Jerk). True to the political essence at the heart of Fela's music. Socially conscious and raucous…” — All About Jazz
“The groove is unassailable—the band can execute feverish, acid-laced workouts on a mix of original as well as vintage tunes. A fearsome live act, it’s hard not to get swept up in its urgent beat.” — Washington City Paper
"The impressive debut album by this percussive 13-piece outfit from the nation’s capital came out at the end of 2008, but word-of-mouth is just starting to spread. Chopteeth’s bone-rattling, horn-blasted Afropop with touches of hip-hop may be closer in spirit to Lagos than D.C., but as the band whips through Fela Kuti-inspired grooves on such tracks as Fogo Fogo and Weigh Your Blessings, its place of origin becomes less important, as you’ll be too busy dancing. Word has it that Chopteeth’s live shows are as sweaty yet tasty as a Texas barbecue in August." — Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Percolating percussion, bursts of brass, and lilting guitars. Musically adventurous and politically conscious from start to finish. An epic show.” — Baltimore Magazine
“Chopteeth gives the listener the feel and the fire of the Afrofunk groove. It’s as if Tower of Power resurrected as Afrofunk.” — Albuquerque Journal
“A tight ensemble with locked-up drums and percussion, a storming horn section, relentlessly riffing guitar, bass and keyboards, and vocals that tell it like it is. It’s a fresh sound that will thrill lovers of classic Afrobeat and open up some new ears as well.” — World Music Central
“Raging guitars and rich, swaggering horns. Propulsive.” — The Boston Globe
"Audiences went crazy over their music, a barrage of sound and movement that compels everyone to dance. The energized musicians feed off each other and the audience gyrating on the dance floor." — The Washington Examiner
“Expert purveyors of ‘70s American funk blended with roiling Yoruba rhythms. Alongside its battery of horns blaring over streams of percussive rhythms, its musical reach also includes Ghanaian high-life, South African Soweto swing, and vocal harmonies to create an effective batch of pan-African dance grooves. This groups can keep the groove flowing and going all year long.” — The Virginian-Pilot
“Infectious jazz grooves and a high degree of funkability. Chopteeth is a gritty, dance-infused, Afrofunk ensemble that is sure to get everyone's feet moving for hours...and hours...and hours!” — Inside World Music
“Funk, Rhumba, Ska: this band will keep you moving...Sheer energy, dynamic beats, and call and response vocals—a powerhouse performance. Mesmerizing.” — The Music Center at Strathmore
“A healthy and upbeat energy. Invigorating.” — Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“This multi-piece band, including fantastic horns and percussion, will keep you dancing all night.” — On Tap
“A musical extravaganza of West African music, American Funk and Afrobeat—an eclectic and upbeat mix.” — DCist
“Watching Chopteeth is an experience. It feels huge and tribal—there’s a small army producing African rock in your ears. Chopteeth keeps it modern while retaining that thrilling vibe of protest that the genre was founded upon.” — Washington Post Express
01. Struggle 5:28
02. Weigh Your Blessings 5:52
03. Upendo 5:34
04. Snake Eyes 3:49
05. Dog Days 5:24
06. Wili Nineh 3:07
07. Herky Jerk 5:06
08. Eyi Su Ngaangaa 5:20
09. Fogo Fogo 6:44
10. No Condition Is Permanent
Aug 27, 2009
Feso Trombone was the valve trombonist for the late Fela-Kuti.
Feso Trombone is a Nigerian trombonist whose afro funk collection 'Freedom Train' was recorded in Belgium.
Fesobi Olawaiye, better known as Feso Trombone, played trombone with Fela Kuti in his country of origin Nigeria. He moved to Belgium in the late 70s, early 80s to develop his solo career as a musician. In the early 80s (83 or 84, I'm not sure), he recorded this record called Freedom Train on a local label called Antler Records (the label from Maurice Engelen from Pragha Khan), that mostly issued new-wave and early electronical music. But Freedom Train is an exception in Antlers catalogue. It is a pure Afro Funk/Afro Beat album. There's the very whipping up 'Beautiful World', that starts with a drum break, but my favorite track is 'Beginning of the end', with this typical hypnotic afro funk groove. The title track 'Freedom Train' was compiled on Essential Afrobeat: The Very Best Of Afrobeat, Selected By Dele Sosimi. This record was released on cd as well.
01. freedom train
02. give and take
03. beautiful world
04. beginning of the end
05. long way to go
Labels: Feso Trombone
The article, “Free at Last” by Roger Steffens appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Option magazine 1986. Steffens provides an introduction to Fela and follows it up with an in-depth interview. While the introduction fails to paint a complete or accurate picture of Fela’s life - rather focusing on particular sensational aspects, I left it in to maintain the integrity of the work (and provided clarification where necessary.) The interview portion on the other hand is a real gem that provides a unique look at Fela through his own words - enjoy.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti: He Who Carries Death in his Pouch. Black President. Band leader and revolutionary from Lagos, Nigeria. He’s lost count of the times he’s been imprisoned. His most recent bust put him behind bards for 18 months. The charges were blatantly false; eventually the judge who had sentenced him came to beg his forgiveness, after which the magistrate was kicked off the bench and Fela released unconditionally, all the charges dropped.
This interview took place June 19, 1986 in Los Angeles, a city Fela had not visited in 17 years, but one that, nevertheless, looms large in his legend. For it was here that Fela first met Sandra Isadore in 1969. Sandra was astonished at how little he knew of his own African culture; at the time Fela didn’t believe there was any. She set about educating and radicalizing this child of a privileged family, and he returned to Nigeria as a firebrand, inventing a new form of music called Afrobeat,a red-hot mix of funk and West African riddims. His troubles started almost immediately. His lyrics named names and demanded reforms in the post-civil war years of the seventies. Once he had a seven-hour gun battle between his band and police. Fela won. Soon after, a thousand soldiers burned his headquarters, the Kalakuta (or Rascal) Republic, to the ground, and forced him into a nine-month Ghanaian exile. [clarification: The gun battle was with area boys around Fela's neighborhood who reportedly entered Kalakuta for shelter and drew the ire of the police. There was no gun battle between Fela and the police]
Another time he was busted for possession of hashish. When police couldn’t find any they held him in custody till he had to defecate. Three days later he finally did, and when his stools were analyzed, no traces of any drugs were found. Released, Fela rushed to the studio and immediately cut a hit based on the incident called Expensive Shit.
He married 27 women at once, in a stadium, and eventually was forced to live with them all in one room. [clarification: lived in one or two rooms after Kalakuta was burned] His mother, a kind of Nigerian Betsy Ross, was thrown by the Army out of a second story window. Fela delivered her casket to the Barracks, and demanded that the army bury her. He ran for President as head of the Movement of the People, and continued to release a steady stream of inflammatory, incandescent albums with titles like I.T.T (International Thief their), Government Chicken Boy, and Zombie…
Fela was scheduled to play at the Hollywood Bowl in September, 1984, when he was dragged off the plane in Lagos and accused of currency violations. His confinement was in mostly hideous conditions in overcrowded, unsanitary cells. He slept when everyone else was awake, and stayed awake all night meditating.
You have just come out of an imprisonment of at least 18 months. I’m wondering if that might not have been beneficial to you in some ways.
It was very beneficial to me in some ways. Many ways, not just some ways. The imprisonment was only negative to me when it comes to the type of punishment incarceration. Yes, that one was punishment. What I gained from the incarceration was memorable. It makes me more patient to achieve my goals. Time doesn’t matter too much now. I can wait for things to happen whilst working toward it. My mind is freer. You know, before I went to prison, you are in constant anticipation for things to happen when you are in a struggle. ‘Cause when you want things to happen you live in anticipation now it takes that off my mind. And that makes life easier, makes your thought flow easier. If anything delays me now I’ll be able to deal with in in a much more fair mind.. [if I am due somewhere] I'll want to get there in time if possible, but if it is not in time I can wait. Prison gave me a kind of peace of mind whilst I struggle.
How was the imprisonment different from the other times?
This one, the government was bent to destroy Fela’s concept, destroy his image, and make him sick, ill, old, broke. And then Fela doesn’t exist anymore. That was the whole exercise, it was just to really completely demoralize my whole concept. So whilst in prison, many things were done to fuck my mind like trying to break my band, putting my brother in prison Using some of my household to fight my family. And destroy my music whilst I’m in prison without my permission.
What do you mean destroy your music?
That production of Bill Laswell, that shouldn’t have happened.
With the Sly and Robbie overdubs on it? You don’t approve of that?
At all. I did not approve it. You see, I have definite instructions with my manager. That is: I produce my music. So in 1983, December , I went to the studio and I did some four albums, which I finally produced and finished. So what was remaining was to sell the finished product. When I got to prison, and this was early in oppression, when I went to prison the whole thing changed, certainly. So now the need here was now to remix what I had already done and to release it the way the record company wanted it done, without my knowledge. It’s like, you know, can you imagine? I want this record release â€“ I’ve said release my record, release my record! They say yes, we are doing it we are doing it. Now they come and they say, ok we’ve released it & this was released.
Totally different from your intention.
Completely different. It was not African music what was there, not the way we hear it.
That this does not represent the Fela that you hear in your head.
No it doesn’t.
One of the things that fascinated me in the Nigerian Newswatch article that appeared right after your release was your talking about the New Age music and music for the Age of Aquarius. To us this seems like something a California hippie might say, and to hear you, the head of the Movement of the People in Lagos, Nigeria talking a desire to make New Age music absolutely fascinated me.
I was very spiritually aware, but subconsciously spiritually aware. But in 1981 I became consciously spiritually aware.
Was that through Professor Hindu?
Yes, through a trance I had to go through. You see, I happen to know that some human beings have to go through a kind of change of life at a particular time of their lives.
When the structure is ready for the transformation.
Exactly. When the experience of the structure is ready, the transformation has to take place whether one likes it or not. I did not know about the transformation. My mother who knew about it had died. So there was nobody to help me through the transformation. But through spiritual communication, Hindu was contacted in Ghana to help me through the trance. When I met him I got the trance. And the purpose of the trance was to show me what life was all about, which I saw very clearly. It was like a film, it was a whole two hour ritual I went through which I saw a lot of things. It was very spiritual and real.
Did you see that you were going to the imprisoned?
I did not see many aspects because of other forces in my household that were against the trance, which is very difficult to explain now. So I did not see the aspect of the prison, but I saw it at the time I was going to prison that I had to go. And that I would not finish the prison term, and that it was good for me to go. I should have to try to accept it and take the pain. So in that trance I saw the tide will change , that this whole earth was going to change into something different, into what people call today the Age of Aquarius. I saw that in the trance, that the age was going to be the age of goodness where music was going to be the final expression of the human race and musicians were going to be very important in the development of the human society. And that musicians would probably be presidents of different countries. The artists will be the dictators of society. The mind will be freer; less complicated institutions; the revelations to less complicated technology, all these things I saw in the trance.
I saw a breakdown of a lot of things in that trance. But music was going to be the main instrument for this, it was going to be like a weapon. Like music could be used in different aspects: music could be used violently if one wanted to. Music could be used for good if I want to. But violence would be impossible if it wasn’t for goo, you see. That science that people could not decipher in the Egyptian pyramids would be revealed in the Age of Aquarius.
Thus the band being renamed Egypt 80.
Yes. It was in that trance that I saw the aspect of the Egyptian civilization to the Yorubas. So when I got my trance, I quickly saw the interwovenness… for what I saw and everything. And also the meaning of my life. Because in 1980 I was thinking of the disintegration of my mind, of myself. I wanted to commit suicide.
What kept you from doing it?
I was telling one of my friends that I wanted to commit suicide but I’m afraid of one thing, and that is that even if I commit suicide I will still feel, I will still be. I will not be able to annihilate the pain of what I was thinking; the change I wanted on earth would still be on my mind, it would be a problem. So if I wanted disintegration, it would still be impossible, because you could never kill the soul. So then when I saw that was the case, I gave up. Then in 1981, when I saw this trance, it game me new energy for the future. I saw now, okay, I could still work on what I believed in. And I had the change to really achieve what I could, because things were definitely going to change. Then I saw the reason for my sufferings, what I had to do. So by the time I was going to prison, I tell you on the day I was arrested at the airport, these voices were telling me, say, â€œFela, don’t worry, this is a trap! That was the words they used.
For you or for them?
For them (laughs). But coming out of prison and seeing the reaction of my people in Nigeria and what has happened since my prison, it was a trap for many evils that I could recognize to dissipate. First of all, expose itself for people around to see. And then to dissipate for the next stage of my life. So it was like a trap for my enemies.
Come with me now, ten years ahead. It’s 1996 now, and let us suppose that for the past three years, Fela Anikulapo Kuti has been a democratically elected president of Nigeria. You’ve been in office for three full years. What’s life like in Nigeria now?
Everybody’s free to trade. Everybody’s free to leave the country any time they want to. My country’s border will be free for anybody to come inside and leave. There’ll be less institutionalized customs and immigration. A unique basis for the economy of the government will be found where government participation in citizens’ lives will be less interwoven. People will see government as their own instrument for a better life, not that government has the last say. People would be able to check those words, coined out of religion, immorality, marriages (pause), let me think what you take is your business. The individual will be the decision of his own progress. We will change so many institutionalized concepts that we fin. You will find out in my country after three years, violence would not be rampant in my society.
Anarchy wouldn’t happen as a result of this kind of freedom in a society like Nigeria?
No, anarchy wouldn’t happen.
And do you feel now that you’re in a position to become an actual political leader of Nigeria?
Yes, I’m in a position to lead.
What are you going to do seriously to pursue that now twhen you go home? Is the Movement of the People a legal party?
It’s not legal. No political party in Nigeria is legal right now. But Africa has a lot of surprises, see. Africans have an outlook on life that is different from a European outlook to life. For instance, if a popular European musician goes into an airplane full of Europeans, they will acknowledge him, but in a different style. They will whisper, Oh, that is him, that is John Lennon, John Lennon. But in an African environment if a John Lennon was an African, Hey! John Lennon! Hey how are you! Everybody will shout, the whole plane would really go into it. Okay, if I’m popular in Lagos, if I’m riding in my car, people would simply acknowledge by shouting, Fela! Fela! Fela! Fela! Fela! All through the road, if they recognize me. Everybody’s waving, Black Power signs all the way. In the European context, they would probably not shout, unless it was a special occasion. But in the African context, it happens every time. It’s a way of life.
So it’s time to capitalize on this
That is the reason why I think I can be president. That’s why I think that I may even be president without an election, because of our attitude to life in general. That there may be a time when for instance now it’s 1986, by the end of the year I’ve started to operate the music, and this is getting the people more aware. By 1988 government might say, Now, we want to have elections, we want to have parties. People may just say, Okay, we don’t want to vote, we just want Fela there. It can happen like that.
If you go home an espouse these views and talk about entering politics again, are they going to let you get away with that again?
I have. I’ve said it in my press conference, where I wore my prison uniform. The press conference I gave, I said it was going to be my last press conference till further notice. I was going to give my final views till further notice and then after that I would be ready to start to play my music.
Do you feel strong now? Are you ready for battle again?
Oh, as a matter of fact, I don’t think anything negative ever happened to me. It looked negative to the materialistic world, but in my spiritual life, which was now exposed to me or to other people, every suffer that I went through was like I was buying powers, I was buying health from higher powers. Every time I went through my sufferings, like they burned my house, beating, everything, every time I was in punishment it was not pleasant. But any time I went through it, I was always happy that I was able to stand it. And I would never regret that I went through it. I was out good, so you know, it’s beautiful. So every experience like this prison I went to, although it was terrible for punishment, after I was in I didn’t think I could really go through 18 months of prison and come out fine. So every stage of my difficulties was like what people call blessing.
You have been referred to by myself and other as the Che Guevarra with an orchestra. How do you feel about that kind of an attitude to who you really are, in other words, the true musician and the true revolutionary all in one?
I don’t want to say, Call me this. If you see me strictly as a musician it’s okay. I don’t want to say that it is wrong to see me that way. I don’t want to say that it is right to see me that way. I want to leave everything to the individual to see me the way they think is right. That’s the best way.
Free at Last - Now That the Nightmare is Over, Fela Has a Dream by Roger Steffens
OPTION, Sep/Oct 1986
The first question that is often asked when Lágbájá is encountered is, “Why the mask?” Basically, Lágbájá’s mask is used as an icon of man’s facelessness.
Lágbájá is a Yoruba word that means somebody, nobody, anybody or everybody. It perfectly depicts the anonymity of the so called “common man”. The mask and the name symbolize the faceless, the voiceless in the society, particularly in Africa. Once you see Lágbájá’s mask you are reminded of your own facelessness. This symbolism is so powerful that Lágbájá’s mask has popularized the use of the mask concept by other artistes both in Nigeria and beyond.
Though the concept was developed long before that, his first album (entitled Lágbájá) was released to National acclaim in 1993. Over the years and more albums later, the music continues to fascinate with its unique focus on a core of African drums. His music is a product of various influences ranging from traditional Yoruba music to Jazz. Often the music is purely instrumental- an interplay between traditional Yoruba percussions, drums, chants, and western instruments, especially the saxophone. When there are lyrics, they are primarily sung in Yoruba, English or a blend of the two as is colloquially spoken in Yoruba cities. Many of his songs dwell on serious social issues, while others simply entertain. Some are dance inducing while others pass serious messages in humourous ways.
One thing that links all the songs together is his use of traditional African drums. Traditional Yoruba drums are the most prominent. Four families of these drums are employed in creating different grooves and moods. The dundun/gangan family is the most prominent and at times up to five drummers combine all the various components to create the polyrhythms. The bata ensemble is led by two musicians who alternate between soft high toned driving rhythms with their omele bata, and thunderous loud talk with their mum drum- iya ilu. The general percussionist leads the sakara ensemble. The fourth family, used as the backbone of the groove is the ogido, a derivative of the ancient gbedu. The ensemble of drummers constitute the larger part of the band. Vocalists and western instrumentalists make up the rest. Lágbájá’s groovy fusion has been refered to as afrojazz, afrobeat, higherlife and afropop until now that he himself has christened the music AFRICANO, alluding mostly to the central role of African drums and grooves in his music.
In March 1997, Lágbájá established his club, Motherlan’ in the heart of Ikeja in Lagos. Motherlan’s design is influenced by the traditional African town or market square, where people gather under the moonlight for ceremonies and artistic events like dance, music, story telling, wrestling etc. True to this function, over the years, it has become a place for many comedians to polish their act in front of a demanding audience.
With a serene gorge of beautiful trees and greens as background, the venue merges traditional Africa with the contemporary, creating the ambience of the countryside in the urban city. Lágbájá performs at Motherlan’ every last Friday of the month to a full house of faithfuls.
Lágbájá is fast emerging in the forefront of contemporary African music, rich in the traditions of the continent while cosmopolitan in attitude. He has started to take his music beyond the shores of Nigeria, performing in festivals and venues around the world.
Led by a mysterious masked singer and saxophonist who gives the band their name, Nigeria's Lagbaja mine not only the more traditional sounds of highlife and juju, but add plenty of Afrobeat and '80s funk to the mix. While the ghost of the late Fela Kuti looms large (he's sampled on one track), Lagbaja show more homage to American acts like the Gap Band and Roger & Zapp--even borrowing their trademark vocoder vocal sound on "Gra Gra." But the Yoruba influence also speaks strongly, merging with gospel for the powerful and conscious "Prayer for the Youth." Culled from three Nigerian releases, this makes a fascinating crossover introduction to a powerful band, and the politically potent lyrical mix of Yoruba, pidgin, and English increase its accessibility to Western audiences. Think of Lagbaja as future funk, where today meets yesterday in celebration, and you can think and dance at the same time.
We Before Me is a compilation of three of Lagbaja's Nigeria-only releases. Arguably the brightest hope for Afrobeat at present, Lagbaja is a sax player who is never seen unmasked in public. He refuses to term his music Afrobeat, but he fuses funky rhythms, call and response vocals, big horn sections and Yoruban percussion in much the same way as Fela did. Perhaps even more so than Fela, Lagbaja's use of percussion is integral to his sound and his music features more defined roles for talking drums and bata, as in Nigerian Fuji music. Each track here features elaborate interplay between the lead and supporting vocals, slowly spinning out his well-considered and original subjects - his method is to question rather than preach. The name of the compilation, We Before Me, aptly sums up his views on the individual and society. Lagbaja has a far broader understanding of gender relations than Fela ever did, and he also explores themes in Yoruban society and governmental corruption. Unfortunately, not even this distillation of three albums can hide the fact that his production technique needs work. Most of the programmed beats sounds like B-level Teddy Riley, and the synth sounds are equally '80s-esque. These sounds overwhelm certain tunes to the point of embarrassment. Lagbaja definitely has the substance to make a great record, but someone needs to give greater gravity to da funk in order for him to be taken seriously on the dance floor.
1. Me and You' Be Enemy (We Be Family)
2. Nothing for You
3. Simple Yes or No
4. Gra Gra
5. Gengen (Rumor 1)
6. Prayer for the Youth
7. Konko Below
9. Feyin E
10. Suuru Lere
Femi Anikulapo Kuti was born in London on 16 June 1962, but he grew up in the Nigerian capital Lagos. Femi developed a real passion for music in early life, his father, the legendary sax-star Fela Kuti, teaching his son to play almost as soon as he could walk.
When he reached his early teens Femi's father gave him the choice of pursuing his education under Nigeria's "oppressive neo-colonialist system" or living in the independent community he had set up. At the age of 15, Femi chose to move to Fela's Republic, Kalakuta, leaving his mother, Remi, to continue living outside the community on her own.
Fela, the king of Afro-beat, provided his son with a strict but comprehensive education, teaching him the basic rules of music and the sax, but also instilling him with the will to fight for justice and equality (causes that the Kuti family, renowned as fervent Protestants and Adventists, had been fighting for generations).
Femi's maternal grandmother was a famous militant activist in her lifetime. Fighting to put an end to colonial oppression, she went down in history as Nigeria's first female trade union leader and died a violent death for her cause. She was brutally pushed out of a window at the age of 78 by soldiers who had arrived at the Kuti home with orders to raze it the ground.
Fela organised a much-publicised funeral procession for his mother in 1977, displaying her corpse outside the presidential palace. The funeral proved a huge rallying point for dissidents and opposition leaders of all boards, but for Femi the incident remained one of the most painful memories of his early youth. Following his grandmother's funeral procession through the streets of Lagos, Femi was literally terrorised. But his father's heroic stand against the country's military dictatorship showed Femi that courage and conviction could prove to be considerable arms in the fight against oppression. From this moment on Femi became his father's son, once famously declaring "I'd rather be dead than continue to live in a state of terror."
Learning to play sax
Meanwhile Femi followed in his father's musical footsteps, giving up his studies to devote all his time and energy to learning to play the sax. After spending an intensive two years training at Fela's side, Femi went on to join his father's group, Africa 70, and shortly after signing up for the group he embarked upon an extensive tour with them.
Femi soon proved to have inherited his father's energy and on-stage charisma as well as his musical skills. By the age of 19, Femi was already playing soprano sax with Africa 70 (later he would also go on to master alto and baritone sax). And on the group's tour of the States in 1985 he was called upon to step in and replace his father at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles when the king of Afro-beat was arrested by the Nigerian police (and accused of illegally exporting Nigerian currency).
The audience at the Hollywood Bowl appeared disappointed when the young sax star walked out on stage instead of his father, but Femi, the consummate showman, quickly won the crowd over with his personal charisma and sax skills.
The smooth professionalism which allowed Femi to step in and replace his father at the last minute did not go down well with all the members of Africa 70, however. Indeed, several musicians began accusing him of trying to deform the spirit and the image of the band. When Fela was imprisoned by the Nigerian authorities in 1984 Fela had little choice but to step in and fill his father's shoes once again. Besides leading Africa 70 he also took over the management of Le Shrine (the nightclub that Fela, the "Black President" had set up and played at since its opening in the early 70s).
When Fela was released from jail in 1986, Femi decided it was time to move on and find his own voice. Leaving his father to take up the reins of Africa 70 once again, he went on to form his own group, Positive Force, with his childhood friend, Dele Sosomi (on keyboards). Two of his sisters, Sola and Yeni, were also recruited to the group as dancers.
Femi later admitted that his father had been none too happy about the idea of his son launching his own group and he received little support from the king of Afro-beat. One of the sources of tension between father and son was that the two had radically different views when it came to lifestyle. Fela, the supreme bon vivant, was renowned for his excessive behaviour and wild living, but his son adopted a much more sober, down-to-earth approach, banning alcohol and marijuana from his inner circle.
Despite the lack of support or encouragement from his father, Femi soldiered on and tried to get his career off the ground. This was no easy business given that Fela was a living legend on the Nigerian music scene and critics accused Femi of cashing in on his father's name and copying his music. Femi held out for what he believed in, however, and Positive Force continued playing gigs on the local scene. And it was lucky they did! One day the group were spotted playing in a club in Lagos by a producer who was impressed by Positive Force's potential.
1987: "No cause for alarm"
Femi went on to record his first album in 1987. Entitled "No cause for alarm" and produced in Nigeria, this competent debut album featured a vibrant mix of soul, jazz and funk. Having grown up at Fela's side and been influenced by Afro-beat from his earliest childhood, it was hardly surprising that Femi's early compositions were much in the same vein as his father's music. As for the lyrics of his songs, these continued to fly the flag for the Kuti family's favourite political causes, railing against corruption, war and the evils of apartheid.
Following the release of "No Cause for Alarm", Femi began to receive invitations to perform in Europe. In May 1988 he and his group made their first appearance at the "Musiques Métisses" world music festival in Angoulême. They then went on to bring the house down at the legendary Paris jazz club, Le New Morning (where, bowing to popular demand, they played again the following year). Femi then turned his attention to Africa, touring across the country to play a number of concerts (mainly at French cultural institutes).
Following his experiences on the road, Femi went on to release a new album, entitled "Femi Kuti" in 1992, which reflected the raw energy of his live shows a lot more strongly than his earlier albums had. He returned to Paris to perform at Le New Morning on 6 March 1992 and this concert made it clear that his earlier flirtation with jazz styles had become an essential part of his Afro-beat-influenced fusion sound. As for Femi's virtuosity on the sax, this needed no more proof whatsoever – indeed, certain critics began to claim that when it came to sax-playing Femi was even capable of toppling his father from his throne!
Femi flew out to the States as part of the "Africa Fête" tour in March 1995, performing 17 dates alongside Oumou Sangaré, Bookman Experience and Baaba Maal. In July he went on to bring the house down at the "Summer Stage" festival, held in New York's Central Park.
1995 also marked the release of a new Femi album, this time on Tabu Records (the famous Motown subsidiary specialising in African music). "Wonder Wonder" featured a masterful reworking of Afro-beat, a powerful brass section and musical influences from Nigeria's traditional voodoo culture. Critics threw their support behind "Wonder Wonder", praising Femi's technical precision and his sense of discipline and hard work. Needless to say, comparisons with Fela continued to run like an inevitable undercurrent through most reviews.
Femi went on to perform an extensive tour of France, bringing the house down at venues up and down the country. In May '96 he went on to sweep the board at the Fame Music Awards (the Nigerian equivalent of the Brit Awards), carrying off six trophies for Best Producer, Best Cross-over Song, Best Cross-over Music, Best Music, Best Single and Best Artist of the Year.
Assuming Fela's Mantle
1997 proved to be a landmark year in Femi's career. In August '97 Fela finally succumbed to AIDS and African music fans and the specialist music press in the West looked to Femi to take his place. There was intense pressure on the Black President's eldest son to carry on his father's name and musical heritage. And Femi rose to the challenge with impressive serenity.
This calmness and serenity have often been remarked upon by fans and critics alike, many of whom have noted that Kuti junior is a lot less excitable than his father. (Indeed, many have also reproached the fact that Femi has not carried on his father's tradition of incendiary political speeches and hypnotic stage performances bordering on trance).
Femi has always insisted that the difference in his and his father's temperament has been caused by the fact that he has not had to live through the same atrocities as Fela. "If I'd been physically beaten like my father," he once confided to an interviewer, "I'm sure I'd have had just much anger to vent!"
The Kuti family had barely come out of mourning for Fela when there was a second death in the family. A few months after the king of Afro-beat passed away, Femi's younger sister, Sola, died of cancer. Sola, one of the founding members of Positive Force, was replaced in the group by Femi's wife, Funke.
1997 finished on a more positive note with Femi signing a record deal with Barclay/Polygram. Shortly afterwards he went into the studio to record "Shoki Shoki", the first of his albums to be released on the international scene in 1998.
"Shoki Shoki" made an instant impact on the 'world' scene with its powerful mix of traditional influences, Afro-beat, jazz, hip hop, dance and funk sounds. Femi, who had launched his career as a virtuoso sax-player, had gradually developed his singing skills over the years. And his new album found his melodic vocals coming to the fore on hits such as "Beng Beng Beng" and "Truth don' die". A true showman born and bred, Femi proved a huge hit with African and Western audiences, bringing the house down wherever he played.
Although the hits soon came rolling in, Femi never dropped the political message in his songs. On "Blackman Know Yourself" he urged the African community to learn the lessons of their collective past and face the future armed with political and cultural awareness. Femi did not just defend his ideas in his songs, either. He also went on to set up his own organisation, MASS (the Movement Against Second Slavery), in Lagos in October '98. Taking a stand against the "new forms of slavery" perpetrated by the world's multi-nationals, he also denounced the international companies who had plundered the riches of poorer nations.
Continuing the spirit of his father's famous "Movement of the People" party, Femi set out to fight injustice on all fronts. He was eager to point out that MASS was not a political party, however, just an organisation ready to point the finger at the underlying causes of the problems facing Africans across the continent. The political situation in Nigeria was becoming more explosive by the day, but Femi was not afraid to stand up and fight for democracy over a situation he described as "Democrazy".
Femi conquers the 'world' scene
Meanwhile, Femi's music career continued to go from strength to strength. At the "Kora All Africa Music Awards" held in Sun City in South Africa in September '99, Femi walked off with two major prizes, carrying off the awards for Best Album by a male artist and Best Song of the Year.
Femi – who, by this stage of his career, had earned a new nickname, becoming known as "the Prince of Afro-beat" - appeared to strike a perfect balance between music, politics and family life. Taking up the torch inherited from his father, the sax-star mastered his destiny with consummate self control, assuming his new status without a hint of any Messiah complex. What's more, Femi's talent and professionalism had now spread far beyond Nigeria.
At the end of '99 Femi received a special music tribute when an album of remixes of his work appeared, featuring contributions from many of the world's top DJs including Ashley Beedle and Kerri Chandler. Needless to say, "Shoki remixed" made an impact on the thriving 'world' scene.
Femi managed to find time outside his increasingly hectic tour schedule to invest time and money in the revival of Fela's legendary nightclub Le Shrine (which re-opened its doors in October 2000). In fact, Femi supervised the building of a new Shrine in a new part of town, programming a line-up of happening young artists and carrying on the cult sound of Afro-beat. The Shrine revival was no mean undertaking, either, as needless to say, the Nigerian government strongly disapproved of the enterprise.
Meanwhile, Femi was also actively involved in the recording of the "Red Hot and Riot" compilation, an album which aimed to raised much-needed funds for the fight against AIDS in Africa. The album, designed as a musical tribute to Fela, featured contributions from many of the biggest Afro-American stars of the day. "Red Hot and Riot" was recorded in August 2001, just a few months before the release of Femi's own album.
2001: "Fight to win"
Femi's new album, "Fight to win" arrived in record stores at the end of 2001 and proved an instant hit with 'world' music fans. The twelve tracks on the album confirmed the sax-star's modernist take on Afro-beat. Paying tribute to his father's legend, Femi sought to make his music accessible to a broader base of fans, mixing in influences which would appeal to European and American audiences.
The impressive brass section on "Fight to win" powered out the famous Afro-beat invented by Fela, while Kuti junior opened himself up to new musical horizons, working with surprise guest stars such as New York rapper Mos Def ("Do your best"), Mos Def's alter ego from Chicago, Common ("Missing Link") and Money Mark (ex keyboard-player from The Beastie Boys). As for the production side of things, Femi left that in the more than capable hands of Sodi, the producer who had worked on his last album, "Shoki shoki".
2002 opened with a sad event in Femi's personal life when the sax-star lost his mother, Remi, on 12 January 2002. She died at the age of 60 after fighting a long battle against illness. Remi had played an increasingly important role in Femi's life as the sax-star distanced himself from his father and played a major part in his new family life as a grandmother to his young son, Made.
2004: "Live at the Shrine"
2004 saw the release of "Live at the Shrine", a double album featuring Femi playing live at his father’s famous club together with a DVD documentary made by Raphaël Frydman. Frydman’s camera followed the saxophonist in his daily to-ings and fro-ings as he oversaw the final work on the Shrine, living in an apartment above the club to keep a watchful eye on things. When he was not stuck in one of Lagos’s notorious traffic jams, Femi appeared to spend an inordinate amount of time in rehearsal. Most nights, he was on stage performing at The Shrine with his group Positive Force, their only night off being Friday when the club organised disco nights and booked other bands to play in their place. The Shrine, which Femi co-managed with his sister, appeared to be packed out on a regular basis.
Femi came up with an original idea when it came to selecting the songs which were to be included on the album "Live at the Shrine." He and his group played a broad selection of songs for several months in the run-up to the recording, getting audiences to vote for their favourites. The album ended up including a radiant cover of Fela’s "Water No Get No Enemy" and a reworking of "97", but also featured ten totally new songs. "Shotan" and "Can't Buy Me" not only proved Femi’s talent as a musician and songwriter, but also found him following in his father’s activist footsteps. Femi reintroduced the tradition of Fela’s "Sunday jumps" (afternoons of political and cultural debate) at The Shrine. But he decided to stop the MASS ("Movement Against Second Slavery") as he felt the movement had been misunderstood and had not achieved its initial aims.
"Live at the Shrine" proved to be a big commercial success and Femi took his new songs out on the road on an international tour that lasted several months.
In January 2007, Femi headed off to Paris to record a series of new songs, laying trumpet, organ, saxophone and vocals down at the Zarma studio near Les Halles. His future album, which is set to follow in the "same direction" as his previous work (think Afro-beat and committed political lyrics) is set to feature Femi’s 12-year-old son, Wade, making a guest appearance on sax.
2008: "Day by Day"
On 27 October 2008, the 'Prince of Afro-beat' released a new album, entitled "Day by Day." The twelve vibrant tracks on it were recorded in Paris and honed to studio perfection by Sodi (a French producer renowned for his work with a broad range of artists including Fela, Les Négresses Vertes and French rap superstars IAM). Femi whipped up his usual mix of catchy choruses and hypnotic African beats on his new album, also integrating elements of hip-hop and swing. Meanwhile, his lyrics proved to be as militant and hardhitting as ever, campaigning forcefully against war and all kinds of injustice. "Day by Day" also featured an original cast of guest stars including Keziah Jones, guitarist Sébastien Martel, keyboard-player Patrick Goraguer and singers Julia Sarr and Camille (who provided backing vocals on the title track.)
The first quite hard to find albums ...
No Cause For Alarm (1987/89 - ?)
01. madness unlimited
02. no cause for alarm
03. the struggle must stop
04. search yourself
05. so-so talk and no action
06. generation gap
07. africa unity a must
08. stupidity an act of ignorance
M.Y.O.B. (Mind Your Own Business) (1991)
01. m.y.o.b. (mind your own business)
02. i know why
03. master plan
04. armed robbers
05. t.o.t. (theory of togetherness)
06. august fool
Labels: Femi Kuti
Aug 26, 2009
Q: You've started quite late in your life with playing musical instruments. In fact you've never played the piano before you were seventeen. Please tell me how music have changed your live. Was there a certain situtation or moment when it just made click and you know music is your calling?
Funsho Ogundipe: Music has always been there. To me it was only natural.
Q: Where do you see your progress as a musician in the ten years with your band Ayetoro?
Funsho Ogundipe: Interesting. The journey is really the reward in itself. Meeting musicians from different countries and performing together is fantastic. Also learning how to be a band leader and adjusting to the different processes involved in playing live and recording albums in the stuidio. As a musician I cannot be still. I have to create. so the journey has been good for a man of my temprament.
Q: Although you've formed Ayetoro in Nigeria The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I were recorded in London (UK). Why?
Funsho Ogundipe: I recorded in London because I now live there. I keep two formations for touring and recording. One in lagos and another in London. If I recall Keith Jarret once had two versions of a jazz quartet. The American and the European. But seriously right now I have access to some of the best players in the world who are based in London and I intend to use that for the benefit of the music.
Q: One of the songs on the album is called The Revenge Of The Flying Monkeys. Is there a story behind this rather obscure title?
Funsho Ogundipe: Evolution allows the oppressed to defeat the oppressor!
Q: The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I album has the subtitle The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat. In which way is this album different from the other Ayetoro releases? And how do you describe the sound of Ayetoro?
Funsho Ogundipe: It is perhaps a bit different in that for the first time my piano voicings on the rhodes and also the arrangements were reflecting the roots of the music in modal jazz. Stuff like rootless voicings and arranging some horn riffs in fourths. Ayetoro's sound is the Ayetoro sound. As the composer i cannot objectively describe my sound. But you the listener can. Probably!
Q: You've also worked as a lawyer and head of corporate finance for the Prudent Merchant Bank. So I guess you may have a deeper insight into Nigerian politics and economics. What do you think is wrong in Nigeria, a country that has large oil fields but is still a third world country with most of its people being poor.
Funsho Ogundipe: Both the leadership and also the people have to take responsibility for the current state of things. Our path to nationhood has not been helped by certain tricky issues like corruption, tribalism etc. but I feel these issues are the test we have to pass before we can emerge as a nation. A lot will depend on the genuineness of the intellectual class.
Q: And what would you do change to enable the majority of the people to participate in the wealth of the countries natural resources?
Funsho Ogundipe: Pass a law mandating all offficial and academic instruction be done in Nigerian languages. A lot of Africans complain about their inability to understand affairs of the state when these are conducted in colonial languages. That is true but even more damaging is our refusal to educate ourselves in our own languages. This will allow us to share global concepts and ideas and relate to them. If we do that a lot will fall into place. Trust me!
Q: Your website mentiones a live DVD of a concert in Lagos and a volume II of the Afrobeat Chronicles. Please tell me more about these releases. Are they already available?
Funsho Ogundipe: The Live in Lagos DVD will be available as an import in europe from October this year [i.e. 2006]. Vol 2 of the Afrobeat Chronicles has just being recorded and release date is 1st July.
Q: What do you think of remixes of your songs to attract a wider audience? In my opinion especially the track Yoruba Boyz Club would be a good choice to benefit from an extended version or a remix. I think this song has the potential to become a cross over hit.
Funsho Ogundipe: We'll see.
Q: As an independent musicians what do you think of the state of the music industry these days? Do you think there's really a need for major labels with the internet as a way to get one's music directly to the listener?
Funsho Ogundipe: It is still too early to tell. Most artists seem to use the net as a way of getting signed by a major. Sure there are some of us who dont but I think the key issue is whether you want a label behind you or not.
Q: Your myspace profile already features four new songs from Afrobeat Chronicles Vol II. One of the songs, Oga, even features vocals. Who sings on Oga and what's the reason to extent the sound of Ayetoro with vocals? And when will Vol. II be released?
Funsho Ogundipe: I sing on Oga! It is not first time I have done that. On a compilation called The Original Afrobeat I have a tune titled Our Man Is Gone (A Tribute To Fela Kuti). Also in Nigeria I scored a top 50 radio hit with a song called Something Dey which has an accompanying video which can be seen on my website. So the Ayetoro sound has especially in Nigeria had at least one vocal track on an album. There is a Nigeria only album titled 6000 Miles And A Minute which features at least three tracks with vocals.
Q: On first listen it sounds to me like Ayetoro's sound is going more into a jazz direction than into an afro(beat) direction. Where do you see the difference and your growth as a musican between Vol I and II?
Funsho Ogundipe: This direction is Afrobeat as I know it. Afrobeats roots are in jazz and then funk in that order. I share that with Fela Kuti that my first love is for the jazz music. If you listen to throughout his career he was able to move stylistically acrooss genres. Afro Cuban, funk, psychadelia etc. In fact listen to Fela's tune titled Ololufe on the Los Angeles 69 sessions and then also Eighty One by Miles Davis on the ESP album and you will hear that they have similar basslines. They are both blues based song forms. There are also anecdotes by people like Lester Bowie to the effect that when he first met Fela to prove he was a jazz trumpet player, the Lester Bowie from the states, who he, Fela, dug he had to play along to the blues on a Jamey Abersold long player. Now what is different is the degree to which we use the techniques. Fela's music is his interpretation mine is mine. But we are still playing the same music. As a keyboard player he dispensed with chromaticism and other pianistic techniques because he wanted to get a certain sound that of early missionary churchs will were popular in West Africa then. I feel the language of jazz allows me to play both sophisticated and primal music at the same time. Also like tropicalia afrobeat is also a musical canivore.
Vol 1 was recorded in an afternoon while Vol 2 has been a more planned and detailed process involved with different players and more instrumentation that I am hearing like bass clarinet, cello and other kinds of stuff. Also for Vol 2 I believe my chops are still getting better. As a piano player my articultion is getting better while on the eletric pianos, like the rhodes and the wurlitzer, I am able to draw out more in terms of sound and mood. You know like adding colour to a painting. You can make it sparse or rich depending on your vision.
Q: What else can we expect from you in the future besides Vol II of the Afrobeat Chronicles? Will there be gigs to promote the new album? If so, where?
Funsho Ogundipe: I hope to do an orchestral album and work with some choirs in Africa as well. There are some gigs lined up. Details will come later.
Jazz sometimes is most adventurous when it is interwoven with certain cultural styles, such as Brazilian, Latin, and South African. Well, there's another side of the African influence. Brought to us from Nigeria, Ayetoro delivers a funky beat the merges that country's native music with some hip, groove-driven jazz.
Founded in 1996 by Funsho Ogundipe, a Yoruba composer, Ayetoro presents a five-track selection of music that combines jazz with Nigerian Afrobeat. Ogundipe plays Fender Rhodes electric piano, writes, and produces. He actually leads two versions of the band: one based in London, the other in Lagos, Nigeria. It's the London ensemble, with a few additional players, that's featured on The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. 1.
If there's one disappointment about the album, it's that there are only five songs, which breeze through in less than half an hour. Fortunately, that's the worst that can be said. The music is upbeat, joyful, funky, and of course jazzy. All the songs are good, but perhaps the coolest is the one with the most original title: Revenge of the Flying Monkeys. Some of the sidemen featured on this album are Byron Wallen, trumpet; Linus Bewely, clarinet and soprano sax; Robert Fordjour, drums; and Orefo Orakwue, bass. Whether playing solo or in the background, each brings a sharp performance to the recording. Hopefully, this won't be the last time we hear from Ayetoro.
Ayetoro is a Yoruba word that means world of peace. Ayetoro is also the name of a band formed in Nigeria ten years ago in 1996 by Funsho Ogundipe. Funsho has quite an interesting and unusual biography for a musician. He has never played the piano before he was seventeen and he only discovered his deep love for music while he was at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria. After he graduated he worked in a law firm for five years and then for the Prudent Merchant Bank (now Prudent Bank). Oddly enough one of his early encounters with a world famous musician ended in disaster. “I remember when I was in Law School, I used to hang out and go and watch Fela play at the Shrine on most Friday evening after school,” Funsho recalls. “There was this day I just walked up to him and told him that I wanted to play the piano. I was wearing a jacket, so I think I must have convinced him. At this time, I didn’t know what they were playing. I didn’t have a clue about what they were doing. So, he took me on stage and put on the piano and I succeeded in making a fool of myself because everybody laughed. I remember one of Fela’s dancers called Folake laughed at me and said ‘You this man, lawyer, Fela friend, you want turn to musician abi? Fuck off men!’ That was in 1988“.
Luckily Funsho didn’t give up then and continued to practise the piano, formed the band Ayetoro and has since then released four albums: Naija Blues (1996), Something Dey (1998), Six Thousand And A Minute (2004) and the Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I, which was already released in 2003. Like most independently released albums the Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I has escaped my notice back then. But as we all know there’s really no expiration date for good music. And Ayetoro’s own blend of afrobeat and jazz, with a strong emphasis on jazz on this album, is simply good music.
The album was recorded in London with no overdubs with Funsho Ogundipe (fender rhodes electric piano), Byron Wallen (trumpet), Robert Fordjour (drums), Linus Bewely (clarinet, soprano sax), Olalekan Babalola (percussion), Ayokunle Odia (tenor sax), Angela Al Hucima (percussion), Orefo Orakwue (fender jazz bass) and Curtis Shaw (guitar).
The album starts with the cheerful From Benin To Belize, a catchy tune with subtextual Latin references. Becklow Gardens (Afrofunkycool) with its tight woodwinds section is just that, afrofunkycool. One of my favourite tracks is Revenge Of The Flying Monkeys (yes, I’m always a sucker for oddly titled songs), an inspiring and danceable afrobeat song, I just wish it would last much longer than its 5:20 minutes.
Blues 4 The Earth Mother is another highlight that shows what a great band Ayetoro is and what beautiful songs Funsho writes. The album’s closer Yoruba Boyz Club can best described as afrobeat meets broken beats done with real instruments. And it features some fine fender rhodes playing by Funsho.
There’s just one letdown with this album and that is, it’s too short with five songs in less than half an hour. Especially the repetitive Yoruba Boyz Club could be a (dancefloor) monster in an extended version that could accent its trance-like qualities.
All in all The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat) is a great album that shows that afrobeat isn’t dead but but very much alive and it flourish if married with jazz and played by talented musicians. Highly recommendable.
01. From Benin to Belize
02. Becklow Gardens (afrofunkycool)
03. The Revenge of the Flying Monkeys
04. Blues For the Earth Mother
05. Yoruba Boyz Club
This 12 man music-collective started out as a tribute band to one of Africa’s greatest musicians ever known, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. With time, they went from exclusively playing his music and his music only to creating afrobeat music of their own.
This powerful, strong, 12 man band has moved on to being a innovative, creative band, with the same spirit as before, now even stronger with a personal sound. Taking Afrobeat music into the 21st century creating their own version, interpreting what afrobeat music is to them, giving the music Fela Kuti ones created a new sound.
Music is the Weapon is a band built on friendship, love, energy and strong musicians with passion for Afrobeat.
This January they recorded their debut album, exclusively own material. The demand for this soulful band was larger than expected and long before the album release in the beginning of May the band received a lot of attention from newspapers, blogs, radio stations (such as P3 Rytm and P3 Lab).
So far, all of Music is the Weapons performances have been crowded and sold out, and with an audience more than satisfied. Music is the weapon is now looking forward to spreading their energy, love and music around the world.
With Music is the weapon on stage, you can count on, a captivating, energetic horn section, each horn player with a different sound and character, this band is swinging for real. With magic rhythms in the spirit of Tony Allen, you find yourself dancing like you’ve never danced before, to rough, passionate, Nigerian funk.
01. Alla måste dansa
02. Around the fire
03. The Mighty Sparrow
04. En Cowboy i Holmsveden
05. Song for Fela Kuti
07. Slå på trumman!
09. Baron Trenck
Labels: Music Is The Weapon