Sep 29, 2009

Amayo's Fu-Arkist-Ra - Afrobeat Disciples


AMAYO'S FU-ARKIST-RA is a unique afro-beat ensemble based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The music is a combination of traditional Chinese Lion rhythms and Nigerian Afro-beat. This unique blend of styles creates a vivid and magical landscape for stories, lessons, and dances of ancient Chinese and African folklore. Songs in the repertory include ‘Amen-awon’, ‘Wounded Lion’, ‘Lion Awakes’ and ‘Happy Lion’. The result is a lethal fusion called FU-Afrobeat: a blend of African spiritual rhythms, Traditional Chinese lion rhythms, highlife, funk, and jazz, infused with political messages. The band’s diverse spectrum of backgrounds carries the spirit of Kung Fu masters and philosophers of the Orient, Freedom fighters, the Royal warriors of Edo & Ife Kingdoms, and Fela Kuti.

Amayo ...
As the lead singer, percussionist and composer for Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Amayo has ignited festival crowds and packed audiences into a frenzy across the US, Western and Eastern Europe, and Japan. Continuing in the tradition of Fela Kuti, Amayo presents the world with his one-of-a-kind style of music, dance, and martial arts - FU-ARKIST-RA. In addition to composing and arranging all the songs, Amayo sings and plays piano and organ intermixed with charged performances of traditional African lyrics and movement. He has opened for James Brown, performed with Tony Allen, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Baba Mal, and with Michael Franti and Spearhead. British-born of Nigerian parents, Amayo’s spirit was first ignited at Fela’s club, The Shrine, in Lagos, Nigeria. While growing up in Lagos, his primary passions were dancing and practicing Kung Fu to the rhythms of Funk and Afrobeat. It was then that the seed of Afrobeat was first implanted within him.

In addition to composing and arranging all the songs, Amayo sings and plays piano and organ intermixed with charged performances of traditional African lyrics and movement. He has opened for James Brown, performed with Tony Allen, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Baba Mal, and with Michael Franti and Spearhead.

British-born of Nigerian parents, Amayo's spirit was first ignited at Fela's club, The Shrine, in Lagos, Nigeria. While growing up in Lagos, his primary passions were dancing and practicing Kung Fu to the rhythms of Funk and Afrobeat. It was then that the seed of Afrobeat was first implanted within him.



An Article

By Michael Downes on Monday, July 20th 2009

Fearlessly combining Afrobeat with Chinese mysticism

In this glitchy, twitchy era of blurred micro-genres, it takes some real hoodoo to keep a crowd gyrating to the same groove for three and a half hours. But by the time the Fu-Arkist-Ra wrapped up their set at 92Y Tribeca a few weeks back, any semblance of a tyrannically periodic time flow had already been thwarted by more natural rhythms. Bandleader Amayo extended a hand to his 13 performers and, with a fifth-century cheironomer's twist of the wrist, extracted pitches, moods, tempos, and hours of fatigue. The musicians formed a crescent around center-stage, where dancers flailed like B-girls emulating a Maoli war chant. Most imposing was the tremendous Chinese lion mask suspended above the piano, that much more out of place thanks to Amayo's Afrocentrist lyrics ("Dumping on Mother Africa is like dumping in my mother's womb!") and the fact that the ensemble was playing Afrobeat, a genre that has never much bothered with the Eastern corners of the world.

The Fu-Arkist-Ra are the invention of Abraham "Duke" Amayo, best known as chanteur and composer for Antibalas, Brooklyn's premier Afrobeat ensemble. This side project's name is a rough amalgam of fu (from "kung fu," meaning "to strive for excellence") and arkestra, the variant spelling of "orchestra" coined by avant-jazz avatar Sun Ra. Born into Britain's community of diasporic Nigerians, Amayo represents a rugged mash-up of disparate societies. He speaks like a relocated David Carradine, quick to compare martial arts exhibitions with African dance ceremonies, Chinese guardian lions with Yoruba deities. His interest in China stems somewhat from the superpower's financial ties to Nigeria (including an enormous chopstick-manufacturing operation), but mostly from a romanticized association with martial arts.

He cites two early memories that have clearly shaped him: a trip to the Afro-Spot (the Lagos nightclub where legendary bandleader Fela Kuti originally distilled funk, highlife, and traditional griot music into Afrobeat) and the emergence of kung fu in '70s pop culture. Over 30-plus years of training, Amayo has become a sifu, a master of martial arts and movement, which he associates with dance and claims as high art. His purpose now, he explains, is to "walk through the universe looking for disciples."

Asian overtones in Afro-American music have greater precedent than the faux-Shaolin lore of cheap martial arts flicks, though Amayo and Wu-Tang have both managed to coerce that source material into something surprisingly compelling. Consider Duke Ellington's 1971 project The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, his deepest foray into exoticism, which begins with a spoken-word Marshall McLuhan paraphrase: "The whole world is going Oriental. No one will be able to retain his or her identity, not even the Orientals." Even now, this echoes what many Americans believe to be true—namely, that we'll all be speaking Mandarin by 2020. But as Voice critic Gary Giddins insisted in 1976, the composition, though rich in Eastern motifs, isn't at all meant to concede cultural supremacy to Big Red, but rather to suggest that these "Negro" rhythms really aren't too far removed from China's traditional music. Ellington uses his remarkable abilities to dispel any lazy presumptions about genre and race.

Amayo carries on that mission. In 2000, saxophonist/arranger Martín Perna and Daptone Records founder Gabrielle Roth stumbled upon his Williamsburg kung fu studio, affectionately named the Afro-Spot, where they took in a fashion show he'd choreographed to Nigerian percussion. Invited to sit in with Antibalas on congas, Amayo lent a heft of authenticity to the young band; from the onset, they have unambiguously presented themselves as disciples of Fela, modeling their lineup and repertoire after his own outfit, Africa 70. After almost a decade of transcontinental touring and guest spots with two of Kuti's sons (Seun and Femi) and celebrated Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen, the group is settling into a regular gig as house band for the bio-musical Fela!, a brief Off-Broadway hit set to begin its Broadway run in October.

The Fu-Arkist-Ra aren't quite as entrenched as Antibalas, and that's the thrill of it. Traditionally, Afrobeat melodies are driven by a ballsy brass section—Antibalas's horns are in demand by artists ranging from Paul Simon to TV on the Radio. But this project instead relies on the interplay between cello, flute, organ, and vocals. Fela thrived on machismo and themes of insurgency, but Amayo's subdued arrangements breathe something more sacramental. His performances are salutation ceremonies for benevolent presences, centering on a revision of the Chinese lion dance, which now summons the Yoruba river spirit Aganju. The group has emerged this year with their most ambitious work to date: the seven-part SUNCITY series, a year-spanning set of new musical and dance compositions set to culminate with a spectacular Fu-Year celebration on February 14, 2010 (the Chinese New Year).

The 92Y Tribeca performance was the third and most recent installment. Entitled "Orisha Boot Camp at Dusk," it featured Amayo re-enacting his rite of passage into adulthood: "A ritualistic martial arts sparring to strengthen young warriors," he explained to me before the performance. "There's never any fights in the neighborhood. This is the only place disputes are settled." Onstage, he marked the boundaries: "No fighting outside the ring," he declared, pointing to center-stage, where the dancers had just been dangling. The duel played out round by round, Amayo's lyrics accounting for each blow like a radio sportscast. And while the details were often unintelligible, the swellings and ebbs were clear—it was a long match, and Amayo lost.

his was all apparently based on real, long-past events from Amayo's childhood experiences in Ghana. "I cried my way home," he told me, laughing. "My grandmother chased me back out, and I had to review myself. . . . It's all about being strong and steadfast." Still, the way he glides about the stage, eagerly jabbing at his phantom opponent and taking imaginary blows to the face, audiences can't know whether he is playing the role of a scrappy, displaced adolescent or a desperately overmatched sifu. So long as every head in the club is feeling it, what's the difference? But alas, those heads numbered a mere 50, outnumbering the orchestra only about 4-to-1. Amayo has tapped into something healthy and uncompromisingly positive, but the frustrating truth is that the Fu-Arkist-Ra are, at least for the moment, too far out there for most. Perhaps it's best that today's music-industrial complex expects this kind of thing to be languishing in dank bars and baby performing-arts centers, where it has instead been flourishing, uncompromised, for those who may so happen to stumble upon it.



01. Fist of Flowers
02. M.T.T.T (Mother Talker Tic Tock)
03. Lion Awakes (live)
04. Happy Lion (live)

Sep 25, 2009

Seun Kuti - Interview 2007


At the WOMEX fair in Seville, Spain, in October 2007, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 of Nigeria were perhaps the most electrifying of all the many acts that performed. Afropop’s Banning Eyre, along with Marco Werman of public radio’s The World, were fortunate to interview Seun in his hotel room before the show. Seun’s long awaited debut CD, Seun Kuti and Fela’s Egypt 80 (Disorient), is scheduled for a June 2008 release, and the band will tour North America in the summer of 2008, including a stop at Central Park Summerstage in new York. So, here is the complete transcript of Banning’s and Marco’s conversation with Seun.

The interview

Seun [SHAY-oon]. Am I pronouncing your name correctly?

Yes, you are. At least good enough for a white guy.

Tell us your personal story. How you became a musician, and how you inherited your father's band.

Well, obviously, the best things are not planned. It was not really my dream per se to lead the Egypt 80 band. I always knew I wanted to be a musician. I was not thinking of my father's death, and I was not thinking, even after his death, I would be in charge of Egypt 80. You know, I started with the band when I was eight, always opening the gigs for my dad. To me, it was just fun on Friday nights. When I just started, it was just fun, very much. But then, sometimes it got to be a pain in the ass. Because sometimes, I'm just so tired from school. I want to sleep till Saturday, but it's just impossible, because you have to do the Friday night gig. But I also used to see it as a way to stay up late. Because all my friends at school used to go to bed at six or 7 p.m., but I got to stay up all night in The Shrine.

And what did you sing?

I used to sing Fela’s tracks. I started singing "Sorrow, Tears, and Blood.” That was the track I auditioned with. Anyway, let me give you the story of my audition. While in America on tour in 1991, I went to my dad, and I said… Because I went with him to the Apollo theater. I can never forget that gig. It was such an amazing gig, and I said to myself, "When I grow up, this is exactly what I want to do." So I went to him and I said, "Fela, I want to start singing." You know, and he looks at me. "You? What you want sing?" Because he was speaking pidgin. "Can you sing?" "Ah, what you mean, can I sing? Of course I can sing." "Okay. Sing for me. Let me hear."

That's how our dialogues were. Because my dad didn't believe in being like a father to his kids. We called him by his first name. He wanted to be our peer. Because he said it's easier to influence your children when you are like their age than when you are an authority. They just do it behind your back. So anyway, back to the gist.

He says, "Okay, sing the song." So I sang "Sorrow, Tears, and Blood." Well, he corrected some few words. That was all. Not key, not notes, just words. So he said, "Ah, okay you can sing." When we get to Lagos we started rehearsing with the band. Boom. That was my audition, right there in the back of the bus. I got the job to open the gigs now. So I started doing that now. You know, every Friday, it was fun. Go to Shrine, do the gig, make extra money, at eight. I was like king among my peers, you know. Feeling like, you know, when I grow up I'm going to be a musician, or else playing for Arsenal. One of the two.

What year was this?

This was still like when I was 10. I started supporting Arsenal from the age of like six, when I knew what football was.

When were you born?

1983. Now, we're talking like 91, 92, 93. 93 I was 10. After that, I kept performing, all the tours.

What was it about that Apollo show that was so amazing?

I don't know. I can't really remember, but I remember that that's the night I was inspired. Because I had seen my dad perform hundreds of times, because I used to go to all the gigs. So we kept doing what we were doing. Fela stopped touring and recording in 1992. He said he didn't feel like touring. There was this rumor all over the world that he changed his mind, you know, about the deal. He never changed his mind. He didn't want to do it, and he didn't do it. So you know, I kept doing the shows. I didn't try to improve myself as an artist or be a professional. Then, I was just like, “Let me now throw out for my early teens…”

My father died in my second year of my teenage years, when I was 14. So when I was like 10, 11, 12, 13, I was performing with him all the time, but I wasn't improving. I wasn't doing it to be a star. I was doing it because I had to open the show for my dad. It was fun. You know. After high school, after college, I started thinking of what to do, and suddenly my dad died. I won't say suddenly. He was ill for a long time. From like April, he was ill till he died in August.

But you know, most people don't know my dad. Nobody thought that man could die. [LAUGHS] You know, so even when he was extremely ill, everybody just kept doing everything the way it was, because everyone was expecting him to get better and come back. And you know, when things are not done right, he's going to kick our ass. So everybody kept on doing what they were doing, so we lost my dad. We lost Fela. In August. A great shock. Turmoil everywhere.

Then the family has a meeting, my uncle, my elder brothers and sisters. My aunts. We've had other meetings about the family. I mean, basically at that time life to me was just upside down. Every day was a blow. I was even talking about this period when my dad was ill. There was a little three-week period when he finally agreed to let us taken to the hospital. Because he didn't believe in Western medicine. He believed in self-healing. In the beginning, he didn't believe in Western medicine, so he took only African medicine. Then, he got to a stage where he believed in self-healing. He stopped taking any form of medication, for years, and years, and years. Anytime he was ill, he lay down on the bed until he got better. So finally, Fela agreed to let us taken to the hospital, there was this three-week period. And I was discussing with my friends yesterday. That three-week period seemed like 10 years. We had little discussion yesterday, my friends and I, and I was amazed. "It was only three weeks. Damn. Looked like three years."

But anyway, after his death now, things were like... We just lost Fela. Big hole. Big void. Catastrophe. Chaos. Everybody trying to do what they can. Anyway, they had this meeting, and basically, the family was saying, "To hell with the Egypt 80 band. We cannot keep funding the band. Fela is no longer alive. Who's going to listen to the band?" You know, for me, I was thinking, because although I was performing with the band, I was actually thinking of members of the band like Lekan Animashaun, Banbani Oshogboyi. You know, now that Fela is dead, these guys are going to become huge stars. You know, like all these legends that die, their bands still play, and make a lot of money, doing all these festivals, and doing more albums even after the head of the band is dead.

But here I am, sitting in the living room with the family of my dad, and they are basically telling the greatest band in Africa, “You are no more important. Just go away.” And it just hit me. Because growing up, my dad used to always say, "Before even all of you, my band is the most important thing in this world to me." I remember one time there was this little squabble between one his girlfriends and someone in the band, and he made this statement. Even when I had some problems with the band, even as a kid, he made that statement. He let me understand I am a member of the band, a part of the band. And the band is the most important thing, even before the family, even before himself. The band comes first.

So I'm surprised that this family, his family, everybody is basically trying to throw away this incredible group of people. Some of them have worked with my dad for 30 years. 20 years. You can’t just tell these people to go to hell. You're not giving them any money. Nothing. But basically, it wasn't their welfare that may me really decide at that moment. Because it was a spur of the moment thing. It was the fact that it ran through my head that: "My band is the most important thing in my life." So I said, "Can I say something?"

They're like, "What?"

And you know, in Africa, it's not the same as the way you Europeans treat your children. You say, "Junior." "Yes, Dad." "Come here." "No, Dad. I feel like going out with my friends." It doesn't happen that way in Africa. You don't talk back to elders. So it took a lot of summoning up of courage for me to say, "What if I keep playing with the band, and we keep what we make?" Exactly what I said. They said, "Well, you can keep what you make with the band, but don't expect any businesses from us because, you know, da da da da da da….” So, here I am, 10 years after. In fact, some people even gave me a timeframe. "You have five years, and this band is going to collapse." It's the 10th year!

So, if the axiom in Africa is that young people don't speak up, then why you, the youngest in the family, and not Femi to take over the band?

Well, I guess probably because he had his own thing going. He had Positive Force already, and he didn't want to stop all that. But to me, and it didn't stop anybody from saying, "We will support this band." We had absolutely no support. Trust me. Everything I've achieved with this band, I have achieved it with the help of the band alone, and myself. The only people I owe anything to is my late mom, and my late uncle, Beko. Because he was in prison when Fela died. For his political, human rights activism under Abacha. He was in prison. And he was the closest to my dad. So he was not part of that decision.

But when Beko came out of prison, he gave me 120% of his support. That was like 18 months after my father's death. He helped me out a lot. God bless his soul, anywhere he is right now. Probably I would have stopped if it wasn't for that guy, you know. Because I had a lot of flak. I was surprised. People were actually being mean to me for keeping the band going. What? This is opposite. People should be part of what I'm doing. I got all this negative press, sponsored by some people, just to keep me down, and the band. I was wondering why they were trying to erase this band.

What were their criticisms?

I don't know what it was. They were just chatting a lot of rubbish, as the British would say. Saying I was too young to be leading Fela's band, you know, I'm not musically inclined enough. And at that time, I heard he finished grade 8, music theory. But it's afrobeat for Christ's sake, not salsa meets Latin jazz … I don't understand. Afrobeat is beautiful simplicity. With a basic idea of music, you can be an incredible afrobeat musician. You just have to have good ears, and you have to be inspired. Talent is very important.

So that was it for me in the beginning. What can I say? I'm still here today. It took a lot of work though. It was not planned. That's why I still try not to plan anything, because I realize that planning things is like a stupid thing to do. You are not in control of the world. You can't plan anything, because you want to do something now, and someone 10,000 miles away can be making a decision that's going to affect your little project you've been trying to put up for the last five years. And you know come in 20 minutes, some guy says something on TV and it's gone. So I don't plan stuff. I believe things happen. I plan for the next second. The next breath. That's what I do.

That's an inspiring story. What about recordings? I know there's this new album about to come out, but have you recorded before?

No, no, no. I've never really done any record. I have featured with like one or two guys on their songs, but I've never really done any records. Basically, I feel all the flak and criticism I got in the beginning for doing what I did kind of helped me. Because I then realized that I had to be ready to come out. I can't give these people the opportunity to crucify me. You know, so, even though, then I could have come up with something earlier. Like everybody does. Just put an album together. But I thought we should wait, just keep doing a live thing. No matter how hard it got. One day we would be ready. And you know come here we are. I've not really done much recording a last 10 years, but now I've been recording a lot in the last two.

Tell us about this record.

I don't know. What can I say? It's the best record ever made. It's my record. What do you want me to say? I think, maybe after the interview you guys can listen to a few tracks, and you guys can say something. If I talk about the record now, it's going to be like me blowing my own horn.

Can you tell us about what some of the songs are saying?

Yeah, yeah. Afrobeat was created for a certain purpose, and for a reason. It's a movement. And until the goal is achieved really, the basis of what the music is about cannot change. You know when people will be talking about, "Why don't you put some salsa, some calypso, other African music, some jazz, some funk in afrobeat." And I'm like, "Man, all these other genres should put some afrobeat in their shit. You know, I don't want any of that in my own music. Because my music has something is doing to the world, and I believe in the originality of afrobeat, you know, being my source of strength, and what raised me."

I think that afrobeat was created for the emancipation of the black mind, and the freedom of the black race, and until that is really achieved… Basically, we have rulers in Africa right now. Once we begin to have leaders. We used to have leaders in the 50s and 60s, but you Brits, Europeans and Americans all conspired and sent your CIA to kill all of them. [LAUGHS]

You laugh, but it's true. Lumumba. Sankara.

It's true. But what can you say?

Do you address those on this album? Do you address any specific contemporary issues?

Specifically speaking, we didn't do that, because this is our first album. We need to let them give us a chance. And then we can be more specific. But you know, we still speak of the issues we have in Africa. Probably I'm not mentioning names or saying anything to anybody directly, but I'm speaking in general terms. This album is basically like social commentary, my views. When I laugh about this, when I say it and I laugh, because you don't expect me to suicide bomb myself. Laughter is the best medicine for it. You say it, and you laugh. But it doesn't mean you don't think about what to do about it.

Your dad recorded some very long tracks. They would start on side A and go on to Side B, and last up to 40 minutes. How long are your songs? Are you restrained for the music business, so that they can be downloaded?

Very restrained. I think the longest track we've got is like nine minutes, which is very long. I have not really checked the timing, but I know they're not as long as my dad’s. My dad had beefs. He said, if Bach could release after his death some decades and decades ago, and release albums that are three hours long and they are still published, he doesn't know what he can to do a song at 40 minutes long. Because he's just as good. You know, so. Even towards his death, he used to call his music Classical African Sound. Not afrobeat anymore.

Tell us about a couple of other songs?

We've got "Many Things." It's a track I wrote about the interesting things I see in my country, happening politically, about our lives. We have "Na Oil.” It's a parable, but the parable actually pleading to our rulers in Africa to respect our lives. Sarcastically. You know, we are pleading to them. And we have "African Problem.” It's my crossover track. My manager, Martin, hates the track. I love it though. I put a bit of hip hop in there.

Let's talk about the oil track. What's going on in the Niger Delta? What do you see going on?

A very vicious cycle. It's all about money. The government gets money from the companies. They bribe the elders of the land to appease the people. They in turn don't give the people anything. They keep it in their pocket instead. They leave their people suffering and crying, instead of the government or the multinationals looking into it directly. They are happy, because they have the chance to drain the soil, so they don't pay attention to where the money is going… The multinationals, first of all, don't pay attention to where the government is putting the money. And the government now, they don't pay attention to where the so-called leaders of the community are putting the little change. The little change that the government gives to them. You know, so basically, attitude reflects leadership. So me right now, I feel that violence is not really the answer to it, because even the so-called movement of the Niger Delta, the so-called freedom fighters, are fighting for themselves. They kidnap people and make money, and spread it among themselves. Instead of taking that money and putting it into the community, putting it new schools, these so-called freedom fighters drive around and state-of-the-art SUVs, the best cars, the best clothes. They're just doing it for themselves basically. Because the government in Africa made Africa into a kind of… I don't want to say Nigeria alone, or the Niger Delta. The whole of Africa is now in a kind of survival-of-the-fittest mentality. Nobody really wants to think about politics. Nothing. Everyone just wants to make money. Because they've made surviving so difficult.

You can give up whatever you're doing in Europe or America, and say, "I want to be a freedom fighter." Even if you are not working. You are a volunteer. You are not doing something. Your government gives you some certain kind of welfare that helps you survive as a human being. But in Africa you don't have that. If you're not doing something for yourself, nothing is being done for you. So you could either choose to eat, choose to live, or choose to die. It’s like that. Either you choose to live or choose to die. And people definitely want to live, but also I'm trying to say, "If we all want to keep living like this and die like this, then our kids will also live like this and die like this. What we have in Africa will not last forever, and until we start making it work for us, we have a very short time to really appreciate, to really get the benefit of our continent. A very short time left. Time is truly, truly running out. Because when we run out of all these things that are making all these big multinationals and colonialists come to Africa, we are going to lose all importance to the world. They're going to forget us. The black continent. We will keep suffering and living like this for the rest of our life.

So that's why I say it's a vicious cycle what's going on in the Niger Delta, because still, it's all about money and oil. And still, people take money and don't do what they're supposed to do, or kidnap people, and still don't do what you're supposed to do. So what's the difference between you and your government? If you're going to try to make change, even if it's with violence, you decide it, but make change.

That's why I have a song called "Think, Africa." Because if we are doing all this fighting, even making our new children, giving them guns, the ideology behind the bloodshed has to be right. If everybody fighting the fight is still thinking for himself. "Ah, let's win so I can loot some money and be rich." If that's what you are fighting, after the whole fight, and even if you win, you are still going to be where you are, because you're still going to do the same thing you are now rolling over, and they are going to pick up guns against you again, so they're going to keep on going in that circle until we start to change our ideology.

You've spoken out against violence and the use of guns before…

It's necessary. I'm not against the use of guns in Africa, although we don't manufacture guns. I feel right now we still have a chance for dialogue in our own country. Really, when Europeans look at Africa, they see a lot of rebels fighting, killing innocent people as they see it, but you know, if you put yourself in the shoes of the oppressed, until you are that dog that is backed into a corner, you cannot really blame a man for how he reacts. When a man has been turned into an animal, really turned into an animal, he has to go really straight back to basic instinct. And this government that he's going to against has guns and weapons. He's not going to go in there with fists. He is also going to try to get a gun. My problem is not the guns, it's where are these guns coming from. That's my own problem.

But given that you feel there's very little time to solve these problems,…

Yeah, probably two or three generations.

… do you understand why the rebels in the Niger Delta have picked up weapons?

No, I still don't. Because even though they have picked up weapons, they are still not improving the situation. So I still don't understand. As I've said, they've picked up arms… That's what happens in Africa. We don't want to do the hard part. We hate going through that. And the hard part is actually the mental aspect of the struggle, getting the mind right, before we… Well, if I was in the Niger Delta, with guns kidnapping, I wouldn't kidnap white people. I would be kidnapping government officials, man. Those guys, I would make sure they are the ones kidnapped, without kids at least. And I'm sure they could make the change. I'm not advising anybody to do that. I'm just saying if it was me. I'm just saying. Because I feel that getting a Shell worker, that is basically working nine-to-five trying to earn an honest living in this situation, it's not fair to his own family. Because I'm telling you, if you kill him, it will not stop Shell from doing what they do, or Chevron, or all his companies.

Do you think the last best chance for dialogue was Ken Sarowiwa, and why do you think he died?

Well, Ken Sarowiwa is a very, very—I don’t know--complicated issue. [PAUSE] I don't want to speak about it, boy. He was not the last opportunity. He was not even the solution. He was a great guy, you know, at the end. Toward the end of his life, he tried to write a lot of things, but he had already dined with the devil. So.

As far as change goes, Nigeria has had an election. There is a new president, Umaru Yar’Adua? What you think about him? Have you written any songs addressing this change?

No, no, no. Actually, we are finished recording. I'm writing songs almost every day, so he will get in there soon. I'm still watching him. He hasn't even spent a year in office, but I don't think.. It was not an election. It was a selection. They didn't elect anybody. Obasanjo just selected his best people and put them in power, to continue his reign. You have to understand that these people… We have men that still live in the country who are older than the country. Nigeria is only 47 years old. It turned 47 on the first of October. These men are 75-year-old, or 80-year-old men. They were there in the beginning. They created the chaos. They know what to do about… Right now they are busy laundering. They are cleaning up their money with our economy, putting their money in the economy, hiding it. Cleaning up. That's what they're doing right now. People say Nigeria is getting better. Only the banks are improving. That is all that's improving. The banking. You know, to help them clean up their money. They are trying to bring all these monies, because the international community is looking at their finances internationally, and seizing some money. Not all of it. Not even enough of it. They are seizing some little guys, so everybody's taking precautions. The banking system in Nigeria is six star. We have six star banking. Trust me. I'd rather bank in Nigeria than any other country in the world. That's how good our banks are.

Being in a situation like that, you know, well, you have to understand the reasons why people…. That's why, before in my life, I didn't want to be in politics. But you need power to make change. There need to be a lot of changes.

When you say there's nobody in politics who is free of that colonial history, or that they are all older than the country itself, do you think that's a bad thing? If you imagine 50 years from now, when that's not true anymore and nobody knows colonialism from first-hand experience, do you think that's going to be better? Do you think that experience of having been through the transition is part of the problem?

Well, that's why there's history. So anybody who cares to find out where he's from will know the history of Nigeria. So I don't think in 50 years time when all these people are gone it's going to make any change, if we don't change it now. Because they're only going to hand over their ill-gotten wealth, ill-gotten material things, and over inflated egos to their children, who are going to use this money to continue buying up the country. Because these people have enough money to last more than 10 generations -- I tell you. So until somebody comes to correct that… I don't see why a farmer, who is working every day and night for the last 40 years cannot even afford to own a two-story duplex. He lives in a little house with his two wives and kids, and you, just because you are a general in the Army for 10 years, you own refineries, companies, houses. It's just not right. And I'm telling you, if Patton knew what Nigerian generals were making, he would probably be a Nigerian army man. [LAUGHS]

You have invoked your father’s word “Democrazy” in talking about democracy. Tell me what you hear that word, but also, compare your sense of democracy with the United States right now. George W. Bush for the last eight years.

We taught Bush well. People don't know. He is very trained by Nigerians, by Obasanjo. In how to rig elections. Towards the beginning of the second term, Obasanjo visited him twice, and gave him some tips. I'm sure he must have given him some tips. He also came to Nigeria, and he was so happy to say, "Oh thanks. It worked. I'm there."

Bush has been promoting democracy around the world. What's the difference between his sense of democracy and yours?

Well, my own sense of democracy is actually a democracy or freedom is real. Not where freedom is just for the rich. Because people don't understand what they are doing. People think they try to make life hard. They want to watch everybody. No. What they want to do actually, in my own sense, is try to make the rich-- not the rich like we are; we are comfortable; we are not rich-- they are trying to make the rich guys above the law. Life is easier for a rich guy. For example, you are in the airport. I'm trying to travel with my bag. I have my laptop and I have my saxophone, and I can't take two bags across Heathrow. I have to try to stuff my laptop in my saxophone, or drop my saxophone. It's crazy. But a rich man, he gets to Heathrow. He says hello. Go to the back. Sit down in the VIP lounge. Walk to his private jet with whatever he wants. Nobody searches him. He gets into his plane. "Oh, hello. This flight is supposed to be six hours. Please, make it in 4 1/2 hours." Then he sits down. Ahhhh.

Just by looking at the airport you can see where the world is going. Five years ago, seven years ago, you could take two bags to the airport. Like a rich man. No stress, no harassment. But since this new change in the world has been happening, things get harder and harder. When you are not known, things get extremely hard. But the rich guys don't see it. They're just like on top of everything. So that's what they're trying to do as I see it, to the world basically, in terms of democracy. Probably, it's not democracy that's going to give us that system. So probably we need to start looking for a new system where people are actually equal, not equal to their bank account. You know?

Do you get as much political inspiration from the older members of Egypt 80 as you do musical inspiration?

Yeah, well, they are all activists. Some of them have been through beatings with my dad, arrests and all that. Everybody, they all have their political views. But they can't be as defiant as that of the Kutis. I think it is in our genes to be very, very defiant. I'm telling you, man. Because some things, people can just take and smile. And I'm wondering how can these people smile about these things? I can't smile. I can't even sleep.

I want to ask about your audience now. You talked about all the resistance you got from the family, the press, and so on. But what's it like now?

The last gig I did in Lagos was at my brother's place, the New African Shrine. We did a gig together for my father's 10th year celebration. And it was…. Yeah. You know, the thing about Nigerians is that they know good music. They enjoy the music, so we get a lot of support, but no support from high up. Because in Nigeria, basically the only two afrobeat bands are me and my brother. Really. I mean a band that's trying to be, not just a flash in the pan, but trying to be a proper band, running the same set of people for years, going and tours, record contracts. Not locally, but internationally. Also trying to get international appeal. Getting critics to come down and watch your gigs and write about them. Just me and him at the moment.

And it's because it's so hard in Nigeria. You can't understand how hard it is to own an afrobeat band in Nigeria. You know? Even when the government sponsors thing, they won't put any afrobeat. They're trying to make afrobeat seem like old music, crazy people's music. But the youths identify a lot. My brother's place is the only place at the moment where you can go and listen to afrobeat live. In the whole of Nigeria! Ohhh. Incredible. There are at least 20 places in New York where you can do that.

Although, the resistance is not physical. They are trying to crush the movement, but the music is a very powerful weapon, especially when it is backed by truth. It is very hard to stop.

People play up the rivalry between you and your brother.

Yeah, they try. But there's no rivalry. We are very cool with each other. I always tell people, "Just enjoy the music. Then don't disturb yourself with comparing and trying to find out differences in trying to start something." People try, because you know, that's what people do, trying to make the most of everything I guess. But there is no rivalry. At least from my side.

Have you got a name for the new record?

Well, tentatively, we are saying Think Africa. But I don't know. I might change it. Something came up, and I had a good idea to say A Long Way to the Beginning. So I want to check and see if any album has been named that. If not, I just might name it A Long Way to the Beginning.

Sounds like a great title to me.


Seun, thank you so much.

Ah, that's why I like interviews with you professionals. In Nigeria, by now you're just setting up all the stuff.


Sofi Hellborg - To Give Is To Get


Sofi Hellborg - a music biography 1979 - 1981 Sofi started playing music seriously at the age of seventeen in the music jazzschool in south of Sweden with the saxophone as her main instrument. 1982 From early on, Sofi was always drawn towards African music and decides with a friend to travel to Cameroon. Five months of playing with both modern and traditional musicians. 1983 - 1985 She returns to Sweden but only to stay for a short while until moving to London where she joined the London African based band Orchestra Jazira, and recorded with them the album "Nomadic Activities" (which features one of her tracks.) 1985 - 1991 Sofi left Jazira and moved to Paris, where she joined Guinean singer and Kora player Mory Kante, toured all over the world and played on the two albums "10 Kola Nuts" and "Akwaba Beach" which included the international hit "Ye Ke Ye Ke". 1991 - 1993 She played with the french star Charlelie Couture and recorded on the live album "Souvenir Live". 1993 - 1994 In -93,Sofi realesed her first album "Travel & See" and started touring with her own group Sofi Hellborg Gang. Her music is a reflection of the journey Sofi has travelled and is a mixture of African, jazz and funk music. 1995 - 1996 She moved her whole band to Sweden where she recorded and produced her second album "Hey Now" on the label Gazell Music. Apart from her own group, Sofi has also started two other projects; Klaxon Five, a lively brass band and Smadj & So, a drum..n..bass outfit with Rai and jazzy influences. 1997 She released with Smadj a vinyl called "Bon Voyage" on the english label Freerange. 1998 Sofi puts out her third cd "Time will tell". The music is still her own mixture of afro, funk and jazz but adds in some drum..n..bass influence. She still plays the alto and soprano saxophone as her main instruments, but she also sings, plays the Thumb piano, composes and produces. With Smadj they put out their cd "Equilibriste" on the label Melt. 1999 - 2000 Sofi moves back to Sweden after 16 years! And prepares her fourth cd. 2001 With lots of new inspiration she puts out her fourth cd "Go Open", with some musicians from the Paris gang and two new swedish musicians. A live recording in Sweden and a mature and groovy cd, still in her own style. This time with a more instrumental touch. The words "Go Open" comes from pidgin english "One way go close another one go open". 2002-2008 Touring and working with different projects as well as teaching music she records a new cd and invite this time Tony Allen, drummer and the master of afrobeat( Fela Kuti) on four songs. She also collaborates with the Swedish rapper Timbuktu for an interesting meeting in the afrosound on a swedish song. Still in her own stile of afrosound she records with the rest of the Gang this cd called “To Give is to Get”. Mixed by Jens Lodén it has a more modern sound to it. Cd out februari 2006. In march 2008 she releases her 6 th album "Drumming is calling" still with the afrogroove feeling and the same Gang of musicians.



Groove Magazine – March 2006

By Gary Landström

This is how life should be. A musical journey with Sofi´s horn arrangements and intimate singing is a sacred experience. The record is like a smiling summer night at the end of a long and cold winter.

Sydsvenskan – March 2006

By Alexander Agrell

Sofi´s first record in 5 years sounds better than those in the past. Partly it is because of the king of afrobeat drumming, Tony Allen. He plays perfect cooking, nervy and boiling drums. Mr Allen plays on only four songs but the ordinary drummer Jean Francois Ludovicus is also a very good drummer. The proof of his skills is on the track “Jungle in my livingroom”. Sofi writes effective riffs and melodies and her sax works nicely together with trombonist Ola Åkerman. Both of them understand how to play short, soulful solos. Sofi burns brightest in the above mentioned “Jungle in my livingroom”.


Dagens Nyheter – 11/3 2006

By Johannes Cornel

There are not many Swedish musicians who have as big experience of African music as Sofi Hellborg. She heads her band with natural self-assurance and warmth. The music is funk, jazz, afrobeat which lay emphasis on on dance and groove. At the same time she sends out a sensitivity that’s completely honest. As a saxophone player she draws towards the funky side. As a singer she is weaker but on the other hand controls a way of singing that is typical African. The singing is an expression of the music and the band rather than of her own personality. And as such it is very convincing. – May 2006

By Bengt Eriksson

After Fela Kuti and Tony Allen, Sofi Hellborg is the one who best preserves the afrobeat. Then it fits well that Tony Allen is a part of this album. Afro-rhythms, jazz and funk mixes and filtrates through Sofi. The result is a more warm and kind – should I say female – brand of Afro beat. Sofi plays humble, beautiful saxophone tones and her open attitude towards the music, the people and the world makes Sofi Hellborgs afromusic her own, special and good.


01. Wouldn't That Be Fun
02. My Dream
03. To Give Is to Get
04. Har du Hört
05. If You Ever
06. Jungle in My Livingroom
07. Bring It on Through
08. Light
09. My Heart Is My Home
10. We Want No More War

The Afrobeat Diaries ... by (Pt.III)

THANK YOU AGAIN Michael Ricci and Chris May from

The Afrobeat Diaries, Part 3

Source (direct link to article)

The first two entries in the Afrobeat Diaries looked at the extraordinarily courageous albums with which Fela Kuti took on the Nigerian military regime during the mid to late 1970s. Part 3 revisits two outstanding albums made by key Afrika 70 members during the same period—trumpeter Tunde Williams' Mr Big Mouth (Afrodisia, 1977), recorded in 1975, and baritone saxophonist Lekan Animashaun's Low Profile (Not For The Blacks) (Kalakuta Records, 1995), recorded in 1979 with additional recording in 1986.

Both albums were produced by Kuti and presented Williams and Animashaun leading bands drawn, respectively, from Kuti's contemporaneous Africa 70 and Afrika 70 lineups. In addition to their instrumental contributions, Williams and Animashaun also wrote, arranged and took lead vocals on their sets. Both albums were only available in small numbers on original release and soon became collectors' items. In 2004, the two albums were reissued on a single CD by London's Honest Jons label. That disc remains on catalogue in 2009.

Only a handful of albums featuring Africa/Afrika 70 fronted by musicians other than Kuti were made during Afrobeat's purple period which lasted from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s. Drummer and bandleader Tony Allen—who deserves, alongside Kuti, co-credit for the creation of Afrobeat (and who will be the subject of an upcoming Diary)—was one bandmember who had the opportunity. Williams and Animashaun were others. But the second-strand Africa/Afrika 70 albums, though infrequent, are of a uniformly excellent standard.

The infrequency of the projects is explained by the extreme pressures facing Kuti and his organisation during the period, some of which were documented in Part 1 and Part 2 of the Diaries. For starters, the Kuti-fronted band recorded prolifically: at its busiest, between 1975-1977, releasing 19 albums (an average of over six a year), from He Miss Road (EMI Nigeria, 1975) to No Agreement (Decca West Africa, 1977). Second, the organisation was subject to increasingly oppressive, and outrageously violent, reprisals by the Nigerian army and police, including the wholesale destruction of Kuti's live/work compound Kalakuta Republic in 1977. Finally, by the early 1980s, Kuti himself was increasingly involved in extra-musical political activities, including running for president, as punishment for which he was jailed in 1984 on trumped-up currency smuggling charges. He served 19 months.

Tunde Williams, born in 1943, began professional life as a drummer and percussionist before switching to trumpet. He joined Kuti's pre-Africa 70 band, Koola Lobitos, in 1967, and stayed with Kuti until 1978 (when the Afrika 70 breakup which would lead Kuti to form Egypt 80 began). After successful years as a session player in Lagos, he relocated to the San Francisco Bay area in the mid 1980s.

A featured soloist on many of Kuti's albums, Williams' hard bop flavoured trumpet is the focus of "The Beginning," a moody, mid-tempo instrumental which was originally side two of Mr Big Mouth. The track lasts 14 minutes, the second seven of which are given over to a feisty Williams' solo played against a call and response horns arrangement. On the uptempo "Mr Big Mouth," Williams puts down the trumpet to deliver the lead vocal, his lyrics addressing the corruption and fraud rife among the Nigerian business class. As a singer, Williams is technically competent, with a style resembling Kuti's though lacking some of its depth. Kuti himself plays agitated saxophone and organ solos. On this track, Afrobeat's signature interplay between tenor and rhythm guitars is as good as its gets, and altogether, Mr Big Mouth sits comfortably alongside any Kuti-led album of the 1970s.

Lekan Animashaun, born in 1936, joined Koola Lobitos in 1965, and stayed with Kuti until the latter's death in 1997. In Egypt 80 he took the bandleader role held by Tony Allen in Africa/Afrika 70. In 2009, Animashaun plays alto saxophone in, and is musical director of, the Egypt 80 lineup fronted by Kuti's son Seun.

With its basic tracks recorded in 1979 (but release delayed until 1995), Low Profile (Not For The Blacks) was made during the breakup of Afrika 70. This is why Allen is the drummer on one track, "Serere," and Masefive Anam takes over on the other, "Low Profile (Not For The Blacks)." Animashaun is lead vocalist on both tunes. As a singer, his delivery is closer to that of traditional Nigerian music than those of Kuti or Williams, and he makes less use of the Broken English Kuti adopted to give his own lyrics wider currency. The effect is refreshing. On the title track, Animashaun contrasts the bling-like profligacy of the Nigerian ruling elite with the standard of living the mass of the people were expected to endure; on "Serere" he tells his listeners that justice and morality start at home.

Animashaun's saxophone is heard winningly on both tracks, and the tough, declamatory solo on "Serere," played against an unusual (for Afrobeat) horn arrangement evoking the dramatic filmscore flourishes of Elmer Bernstein, is among the best he recorded during the period. There are strong solos too from trumpeter Olu-Otenioro Ifayehun and keyboard player Durotimi Ikujenyo. As much as Williams' Mr Big Mouth, Animashaun's Low Profile (Not For The Blacks) is first-generation Afrobeat at its best.

Mr Big Mouth

Tracks: Mr Big Mouth; The Beginning.

Personnel: Tunde Williams: trumpet, vocal (1); Nwokoma Stephen Udem: trumpet; Fela Anikulapo Kuti: tenor saxophone, keyboards; Lekan Animashaun: baritone saxophone, backing vocal; Oghena Kologbo: guitar; Leke Benson: guitar; Franco Aboddy: bass; Tony Allen: drums; Henry Kofi: conga; Shina Abiodun: conga; Nicholas Addo: conga, backing vocal; Isaac Olaleye: shekere; James Abayomi: sticks; Kemi Omitola: backing vocal; Fehintola Kayode: backing vocal; Candido Obajinmi: backing vocal.

Low Profile (Not For The Blacks)

Tracks: Low Profile (Not For The Blacks); Serere.

Personnel: Lekan Animashaun: baritone saxophone, vocal; Olu-Otenioro Ifayehun: trumpet; Fela Anikulapo Kuti: alto saxophone, organ; Oyinde Adeniran: tenor saxophone; Mukoro Owieh: baritone saxophone; Okalue Ojeah: guitar, backing vocal; Mardo Martino: guitar; Durotimi Ikujenyo: keyboards, backing vocal; Kalanky Jallow: bass; Masefive Anam: drums (1); Tony Allen: drums (2); Henry Kofi: conga; Udoh Udoh: conga; Dele: conga; Alele Adana: sticks; Wale Toriola: sticks; Femi Anikulapo Kuti: backing vocal; Dele Sosinmin: backing vocal; Fehintola Anikulapo Kuti: backing vocal; Ihase Anikulapo Kuti: backing vocal; Tokumbo Anikulapo Kuti: backing vocal; Aderonke Anikunifa: backing vocal; Alake Anikulapo Kuti: backing vocal.

Source and thanx!

Sep 22, 2009

Ghetto Blaster


The story of Ghetto Blaster begins in 1983, in Lagos, Nigeria. GHETTO BLASTER starts out by being the title of a musical documentary , which tells the story of a journey from Paris to Lagos made by Pascal Imbert, the band's first producer, and the two musicians Stéphane Blaess (guitar) and Romain (voice). Upon their arrival, the musicians of FELA & EGYPT 80's, Fela's previous group: Kiala Nzavotunga (guitar and voice), Ringo Avom (drums) and Udoh Essiet (percussions) join up with the French musicians, followed by Betty Ayaba (vocals), Frankie Ntoh Song (keyboards) and Willy N'For (bass and vocals). The co-creator with Fela of Afrobeat, drummer Tony Allen, contributes to getting GHETTO BLASTER on the road by giving guidance throughout the rehearsals.

They arrive in Paris in June 1983, and install themselves on a house boat anchored next to the Austerlitz train station, which they use as their living quarters as well as their rehearsal studio. The movie relating their adventures is broadcast for the first time in 1984 on national tv station Antenne 2. That same year, GHETTO BLASTER release the EP PREACHER MAN on Island Records. It is a big success right from the start.

1984 sees the release of the album PEOPLE on French label Mélodie, which was re-released by the company Follow Me in 2002. This release brings their music to a wider audience. GHETTO BLASTER embark on a tour of the USA and play first parts for such great musicians as Manu Dibango, Archie Shepp, Fela Kuti, Kool & the Gang, James Brown and Maceo Parker. At the end of the 80ies, the death of their singer Betty Ayaba, followed by that of their bass player Willy N'For in 1997, causes the group to disband for a while.

After a long silence, GHETTO BLASTER are back lead by Kiala, Frankie and the singer Myriam Betty. In 2003, Ghetto Blaster celebrated their 20th anniversary (1983-2003) by releasing their most recent album, RIVER NIGER. Since then, they have been playing many exciting dates in the great Paris clubs and in French and European festivals.


Their music

Ghetto Blaster keep alive the flame which was maintained for more than a quarter of a century by the godfather, Fela Kuti.
First, you have the incredible riffs, frantic rhythms poured into jazz, funk, rock, rhythm'n'blues and soul. Their afro beat with its special, modern style proves that they remain the pioneers of afro rock and afro jazz in Europe. The voices of african beat never die down. It has to be said that the group carried the afro beat wave in their wake through Europe, particularly in the 80s, before there was a lull in their activity. Then they came back in force, thanks to a second album which came out in 2003, and above all on stage, where they never let the fire cool on their fusion style, throbbing with an explosive groove.

While keeping their hold on the secrets of the afro beat temple, Ghetto invite us to new horizons, without confusing the genres, catalysing a new energy which tends towards the Rock'n'Funk'n'Blaster. Their latest album proves it. It symbolises their journey and their maturity. The lyrical soaring of " Batu Mwindu " takes you to Zaïre. " Je m'appelle Kiala " is a really fresh, open track which invites us to celebration among friends. After a few other musical escapades, we come back to the roots, as " Reality " well and truly proves that the reality of afro beat hits home as well as ever.

The group, which has only brought out two albums, never stops increasing the quality of its creative output. You can be sure that the future will bring us yet more sumptuous productions, synonymous with the consecration of such great efforts.



01. Intro
02. River Niger
03. Batu Mwindu
04. Ghetto Blaster 1974
05. Living in the Village
06. Together
07. Reality
08. Toyemba
09. Je Mappelle
10. Happy Days
11. Mbanza Mpuena (Holy City)
12. Baninga Y Africa
13. Batu Mwindu (remix)
14. Bolingo (remix) and Outro

Femi Kuti - Interview 2007

Femi Fatale ...
Son of legendary Fela Kuti carries on the revolutionary beat


It would seem a daunting task to step out of the shadow of a man known to his fellow countrymen as “the black president.” But Femi Kuti, son of Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, has managed to embrace his father’s legacy while rising to stardom in his own right. Combining his father’s funk- and jazz-infused African highlife music with elements of dance and the occasional house beat, Femi has helped bring Afrobeat into the 21st century — collaborating with the likes of Mos Def, Common and Macy Gray, among others. Ten years after his father’s death from AIDS, the 46-year-old singer/sax player continues to live and raise his family in Lagos, the Nigerian capital. He’s reopened his father’s legendary nightclub, the Shrine, which was shut down by the government in the 1980s, and plays free shows several nights a week.

Though politically active like his father, Femi has recently taken a Bob Dylan–like retreat from public life — eschewing overt political action in favor of spending time with his family and letting his music speak for him. This comes in the wake of years of public proclamations against democracy — a position no doubt birthed by the election of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. A former Nigerian military dictator known for brutally squashing political dissent, Obasanjo routinely harassed and arrested Femi’s father for his political activity during the 1970s, and his soldiers were responsible for the murder of Femi’s grandmother.

Femi’s controversial take on democracy earned him no friends in Nigeria, even contributing to the failure of his marriage, but events in Nigeria seem to have upheld his position. After eight years of quasidemocratic rule under Obasanjo, and despite housing one of the largest oil reserves on the planet, nearly 60 percent of Nigeria’s 140 million people live in abject poverty, and government inaction has allowed AIDS to ravage the country — one in 25 are now infected. In May, Obasanjo was finally forced out of power after the Nigerian legislature refused to let him alter the constitution to run for a third term. But any pretense of democratic victory was short lived, as Obasanjo’s handpicked successor, Umaru Yar’Adua, subsequently took control of the presidency in what was widely considered the most fraudulent election in Nigeria’s history. Violence has since escalated as militants have taken up arms against the government, and kidnappings of foreigners have increased — including the recent taking of a 3-year-old British girl. With Nigeria simmering on the brink of collapse, Femi, in the days before his upcoming House of Blues show, spoke to the L.A. Weekly about his life, music and the fate of his fragile nation.


The interview

Fela once said, “Music is the weapon of the future.” Do you feel the same?

Absolutely. Music is a way of communicating with everyday people and getting across a message that relates to them, not to only leaders. Music is the voice of truth in the face of political dishonesty. It tells the people what they ultimately feel rather than what they are told by politicians.

Since your father’s death in 1997, has AIDS awareness become a part of his legacy in Nigeria?

Yes, it brought some awareness of the disease, but AIDS is not very public and is still a taboo subject. The messages are very mixed: Is there a cure? Is there not? And if there is, then it doesn’t matter — I can sleep with someone and get the disease and be cured. There is confusion that AIDS is a disease for homosexuals — so most of the population says, “I’m not gay. So, great — I can carry on as normal.” The church also squashes the issue of using condoms and makes it something that is wrong to do — so ignorance carries on. The church has got to start changing so that people will start listening and taking action. There should be posters and advertising everywhere making it clear that it is a disease that anybody can get.

What’s your take on Bono and concerts like Live 8 that campaign on behalf of Africa?

Bono doesn’t need to tell us that we are poor. We know we are poor. All these concerts come and go and nothing changes in Africa.

So then what’s the best way for concerned Americans to get involved with helping Africa?

Not to feel sorry for us but to be positive toward us. Do more business with us. Come and visit us. We, in turn, have to get stronger and not rely on leaders to do everything for us. We must take action ourselves. But Western democracies must also stop turning a blind eye to African corruption and start taking action — then we can start moving forward as a nation.

Do you get many foreign visitors to the Shrine?

Yes, all the time. My father and I are known internationally, so there are many people who want to pay respect to my father. Also, people just love Afrobeat, and it is the birthplace of it.

Many have called the recent elections the most corrupt in Nigeria’s history. Is the presidency of Umaru Yar’Adua widely perceived as illegitimate?

Well, Nigerians are used to being let down by their government. Our leaders are never held to account, so there is no honesty. People are poorer, things in the market are getting more expensive, life is getting more difficult by the day. And when these people get into power they never fulfill their promises. You see them with their big cars, they buy houses in England or America, they give their kids the best education, but the crop of the people, the masses themselves, they lose. Despite being Africa’s biggest oil exporter, the country has fallen far behind other developing countries. Most people blame corruption. Since independence from Britain in 1960, an estimated $400 billion of oil revenues have gone missing — presumed stolen, by our military and political elite. Two billion has been recovered, so our country is going in the right direction — at least now if you do steal you could get caught! But a whole culture change still needs to happen.

Have recent events made you reconsider becoming more active in Nigerian governmental affairs — in taking over your father’s mantle as “the black president”?

If someone wants to be president, good luck to them. But I don’t ever want to be president — sitting in a department, signing stupid documents and all that. I have my path; others have theirs. No one can follow my path because they don’t know my path. Let them follow their own path. Let them have their own lifestyle and identity.

You’ve said in the past that you don’t believe in democracy. What do you believe in?

I’m going to be a leader of myself. All I can do is just try to be a good human being and fight to eradicate bad vibes like jealousy and greed from my way of thinking. I want to be happy and make other people happy too.

Interview published by L.A. Weekly on July 19, 2007, written Matthew Fleischer


Sep 21, 2009

Afrobeat Down - Lamb Of The Body


AfroBeat Down: L.A.'s Premier Afrobeat Ensemble, delivers driving, raw, un-cut African Funk straight to your Nyash; making your body move and shake to the rhythms of Nigeria circa 1970. ABD's 10-15 members strong are inspired and dedicated to maintaining the Afrobeat musical tradition; the legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. ABD's message is fused in Power packed, Political, Polyrhythmic Consciousness focused on bringing people together to fight Oppression and enjoy a peaceful, light filled life. Aloha.

"...Oppressors, Destroyers, masochists can never be great people. Creativity, not destruction, should be the yardstick of greatness. If you cannot create anything that will make your own life, or that of a fellow human, happier, then get out of the way. Split! Disappear! And give others a chance."

"Thanks for keeping the Afrobeat burning on the West Coast!" - Martin Perna , Antibalas

"They got the Afrobeat thang hooked up!" - Sandra Izsadore , Fela's "Africa '70"

"Fela Kuti fanatics should not miss the dance infused jams of Afrobeat Down..." - Contra Costa Times.

"For five years, L.A.'s Afrobeat Down has dedicated itself to celebrating the life of Fela Kuti.... Not content to be just a cover band, the group has written its own songs as well. ABD's first album, 2005's Lamp of the Body, is heavy on the sax and rhythm section, but the only cover is a live version of "Gentleman." Afrobeat Down's Web site ( reveals a growing network of American Fela disciples, from collectives like Antibalas to the singer Wunmi." - Tamara Palmer , SF WEEKLY.

"Southern California's Afrobeat Down is known as its area's premier Afrobeat combo, one with an unabashed desire to re-create the hard-driving funky sound of its early-’70s inspirations." - San Francisco Bay Guardian.


01. Communicate
02. Lebanon
03. Lamb of th body
04. Dubversion
05. Gentleman (Live)

Sep 17, 2009

Adubiifa 67 - It´s a new day...


Mr. Adubiifa was born in Gardena, California and raised in Pasadena, California. He has been involved with music since early childhood and played many styles of music in his youth. He received his degree in African American Studies in 1993 from Howard University in Washington DC. Mr. Adubiifa has worked hard on both coast to assist those who have fallen through the cracks of society obtain food, clothing and shelter. He currently works in Pasadena as a case manager at a homeless shelter.
His musical influences include the music of Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock, The Meters, Poncho Sanchez, Miles Davis and The Crusaders (just to name a few). He notes that his biggest influence, comes from the Yoruba Spiritual path of Ifa and the peace and focus that Ifa gives his life.

His newest musical offering, “It’s A New Day…” is a beautiful mixture of Afro beat, Funk, Jazz and Latin rhythms and is designed to get the mind, body spirit dancing! Mr. Adubiifa believes that music is a powerful healing force in the universe and is essential for the positive spiritual advancement of wo/mankind.
So, stand up and enjoy the delightful sounds of Adubiifa 67’s “It’s A New Day…”!



Where did Adubiifa 67 originate?

Adubiifa 67 got its start out of jam sessions that we used to have about once a month. We would get together barbeque, tell jokes, talk politics and social reform and play music. I would tape the jam sessions and I really began to dig the energy and fusion that was taking place. So, my twin brother (bittah munk) and I discussed the direction to go and then presented the idea to the musicians.

Who are the members and how were they selected? What was the process for selections and who spearheaded?

Most of the musicians are studio musicians coming from different styles of music and we all wanted to expand and try something new. I am very blessed with being able to work with such beautiful and talented people.

How long has Adubiifa 67 been together?

It all really started to jell and come together in the fall of 2004.

What is the goal of Adubiifa 67- political statements/ just plain good music/a release or outlet for you?

Musically the goal is to create beautiful grooves. The Meters are one of my biggest influences and I wanted to focus on heavy rhythms and not have too many sections with musicians soloing. Also, I am a follower of Ifa ( Yoruba spiritual belief system ) and I wanted to represent the culture through the music as a way of introduction to Africans in America.

Do you plan to continue to be primarily instrumental (or is that an assumption on my part)?

Well, I am currently in the process of developing the next full length album and it will feature more vocal tracks from eclectic singers. It will be a mixture of sample based music and live instruments. We should begin production early 2007 if everything falls into place. Also, Milford B. Keyes (president of Golden Scarab Music) and my brother are trying to convince me to put out another instrumental album. But we'll see what the future has in store.

How has the group changed/developed since it's creation?

The group will always be in a state of change and growth. Because of the busy schedule of most of the musicians that I recorded with on 'It's A New Day', it is hard to set any concrete schedule. I usually just grab who is in town and available to record. It is a natural process for me to keep the creative juices flowing.

What is your muse, what inspires you?

I gather inspiration from a lot of different things: Ifa, my wife, my children, friends, futbol, nature, books, politics… basically life and the life that I'm living.

How many albums have been created?

So far we have enough music for two more albums. If they ever see the light of day is another question.

Themes of those albums are...

Hope, peace, happiness and heavy funkiness!

Future albums/music will look and sound like...

I may do an album with my brother in the near future. But you never know with that guy because he stays busy doing scores for movies, producing and working on his own music. If it wasn't for him I would not have had the courage to strike out and follow my musical visions. He is definitely one of my favorite producer's of all time.

Guest artists? Upcoming collaborations?

Very top secret… for now…stay (in)tuned and in the light…



01. Ojo Aiku 1:56
02. Labalaba Nfo 5:36
03. Dide! Dide! Dide! 1:19
04. Dew Drops At Dawn 5:41
05. Isokan 1:13
06. Wylde Flower 3:51
07. The Next Step 2:57
08. Akuku 1:12
09. Today Is the Day 5:39
10. Voices in the Mist 1:27
11. Eternal Blossom 5:33
12. Omo Oduduwa 3:16
13. Lila Orun

Rhythm Funk Masters - Afro-American-Arctic


Strangely enough, an afro-beat band from Finland!! Why not? Rhythm Funk Masters’ music isn’t actually pure afro-beat, but it also combines elements from different music styles like jazz, funk and rock to it. Each band member brings in his own character. To say it in a simple way, we play instrumental afro-beat, funk and jazz music with a strong Scandinavian flavour. Rhythm Funk Masters was formed in 2003 in Helsinki. We’ve had some gigs every now and then, but now we’re going to get more active that we got our first album out! Afro-American-Arctic is recently released in Finland and Japan.


A great little combo from funky Finland -- one who mix in a fair bit of Afro Funk influences with their deeper funk groove! And if you think we used the word "funk" too much in that last sentence, don't worry, it's warranted -- as these guys are totally on the groove, with a fierce instrumental approach that's really really wonderful! The combo's neither a straight retro funk group, nor a copycat of Fela modes from earlier years -- and there's a warmer, jazzy sensibility that touches the best tracks here -- one that creates some freely flowing lines on tenor, soprano sax, flute, and trumpet -- all supported by some very heavy keyboards, guitar, and percussion! Tracks include "Enormous Introduction", "Gogo", "Nudinuff", "Latin Bantu Lounge", "Non Compos Mentis", "Radio Bembe", "Arctic Rainforest", and "Highway".


Rhythm Funk Masters released their debut album, Afro-American-Arctic, last year. The title represents the content pretty well. It's a solid blend of afrobeat, funk and some nordic elements. I've been meaning to buy this one for a long time but since it's released only as a CD and I rarely browse through the CD shelves I have kind of forgot to purchase it. Well, today I found it from my local record stores.

I'm actually a bit surprised and disappointed that this record has been slept on by many people meanwhile some mediocre retroactive afrofunk bands have gotten a lot of hype. And these guys are anything but mediocre when it comes to hard-hitting instrumental afrobeat/funk/jazz. They have definitely listened their Fela Kuti records and blaxploitation soundtracks but they aren't simply copying or imitating those sounds. For me the highlights of the album are Nudinuff, a pure afrobeat groover and Bushman, a great tune that's a bit more on the jazzier side like Donny Hathaway's The Ghetto.



01. Enormous Introduction
02. Gogo
03. Nudinuff
04. Non Compos Mentis
05. Radio Bembe
06. Latin Bantu Lounge
07. Bushman
08. Frantic Activity
09. Highway
10. Arctic Rainforest

Sep 14, 2009

The Afrobeat Diaries ... by (Pt.II)

THANK YOU AGAIN Michael Ricci and Chris May from

The Afrobeat Diaries, Part 2

Source (direct link to article)

Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the sack of Kalakuta Republic

Part 1 of the Afrobeat Diaries looked at the circumstances surrounding Fela Kuti's 1974 album Alagbon Close (Jofabro), the first of Kuti's discs so explicitly to expose the brutality and injustice then, as now, rampant among the Nigerian police and judiciary.

Part 2 first relates the consequences of that brave album, which began with a police attack on Kuti's self-declared "Kalakuta Republic"—the live/work compound he'd established for himself and Africa 70—on 23 November, 1974. The attack was chronicled on the album Kalakuta Show (EMI Nigeria).

Following the release of Zombie (Phonogram Nigeria), an incendiary lampoon of the military, the Nigerian army staged an even bigger and more savage assault on 18 February 1977, during which Kalakuta was burnt to the ground and its occupants beaten, or raped, or both.

Although the police attack on Kalakuta in November 1974 was on a smaller scale than the army's attack in February 1977, it was a gruesome affair. On the pretext of searching for a young woman who it was alleged Kuti had abducted, the police staged a surprise assault on Kalakuta.

After breaking down the fence which surrounded the compound and throwing teargas canisters into its buildings, they set about anyone they could lay their hands on. Kuti was so badly beaten that he spent the next three days under police guard in hospital, no visitors, and especially no photographers, allowed, before his lawyer succeeded in getting him released on bail. Following a menacing introduction by the Africa 70 horns, a tough tenor saxophone solo from Kuti, and underpinned throughout by insistent drums and shekere, the title track on Kalakuta Show relates the story.

Wrasse Records' reissue of Kalakuta Show includes another top drawer album, Ikoyi Blindness (African Music International), released a few months later. On Ikoyi, Kuti celebrated his change of middle name from Ransome, which he now considered a slave name, to Anikulapo, and Africa 70's rebirth as Afrika 70. The cover showed Ransome crossed out, with Anikulapo added in above it (see next page).

Kuti's full name now meant "He Who Emanates Greatness" (Fela), "Having Control Over Death" (Anikulapo), "Death Cannot Be Caused By Human Entity" (Kuti).

It was a name-of-power, and Kuti was going to need all of it on 18 February, 1977.

The fury stirred up among the Nigerian authorities by Alagbon Close, and then by Kalakuta Show, was as nothing compared to the reprisals conducted against Kuti and his band following the 1976 album, Zombie.

On the title track, over urgent, quick-march accompaniment from Afrika 70, Kuti and his backup singers ridicule the mindset of the Nigerian army. "Attention! Quick march! Slow march! Salute!" Kuti sang, "Fall in! Fall out! Fall down! Go and kill! Go and die! Go and quench!" Each phrase is followed by the women singers' taunting response, "Zombie!"

For the army, Kuti's lyrics were the final insult, a direct attack on its pride and standing, made more wounding by the fact that the collective alpha males were being made to look foolish, in part, by women. The army's response was terrible...

On 18 February, 1977, around 1,000 soldiers, most of them armed, swooped on Kalakuta. They cordoned off the surrounding area, broke down the wire fence around the community's buildings, and kicked their way into the central structure. Occupants were stripped and beaten; men had their testicles beaten with batons; women had their nipples smashed with stones. Kuti himself was beaten close to death, sustaining a fractured skull and several broken bones. His mother, then aged 77, was thrown from a first floor window, fracturing a leg and suffering deep trauma. The army then set fire to the compound and prevented the fire brigade reaching the area. The ensuing blaze gutted the premises, destroying six Afrika 70 vehicles, all Kuti's master tapes and band equipment, a four-track recording studio, all the community members' belongings and, for good measure, the free medical clinic run by Kuti's brother, Dr Beko Kuti (also severely beaten in the attack). The first journalists to arrive on the scene were assaulted by soldiers. Inquisitive passers-by were similarly set upon. The army didn't want any witnesses.

Although Kuti won the war of words which followed, he sensibly decided to leave Nigeria for a while, and in October went into voluntary exile in neighbouring Ghana. But his political stance didn't endear itself to the Ghanaian authorities either—particularly when protesting students starting shouting "Zombie!" at police and soldiers in the streets—and Kuti was deported back to Nigeria after a few turbulent months.

In February 1978, to mark the anniversary of the previous year's pillage, and to affirm his embrace of African culture, Kuti married 27 women simultaneously in a traditional ceremony. After his mother died a few months later, Kuti and Afrika 70 recorded Coffin For Head Of State (Kalakuta Records), which explicitly blamed the Nigerian head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo, for her death. The day before Obasanjo retired from office for the first time, on 1 October, 1979, Kuti and his friends and family marked the occasion by depositing his mother's coffin at the gate of Obasanjo's residence in Dodan barracks. If the military thought they could silence Kuti, short of killing him, they were very wrong, as demonstrated by Coffin and other courageous albums including Unknown Soldier (Phonodisk), Sorrow Tears And Blood, Vagabonds In Power and Authority Stealing (all Kalakuta Records).

Wrasse Records' reissue of Zombie includes two valuable, previously unreleased tracks, "Observation Is No Crime" and "Mistake." The second of these, a medium-paced, conga-rich, 15 minute tour de force by Afrika 70, with excellent solos by trumpeter Tunde Williams and Kuti, on saxophone, was recorded live at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1978. Incredibly, it is accompanied throughout by booing and cat-calls from the audience, a large number of whom appear to have gone along only to attack Kuti for his perceived attitude to women. But Kuti and Afrika 70 had faced much worse than this the previous year, and continue cooking up a storm, unfazed.

Kalakuta Show

Tracks: Kalakuta Show; Don't Make Garan Garan.

Personnel: Personnel: Fela Ransome Kuti: tenor and alto saxophone, keyboards, vocals; Tony Allen: drums, leader; Lekan Animashaun: baritone saxophone; Christopher Uwaifor: tenor saxophone; Tunde Williams: trumpet; Ukem Stephen: second trumpet; Ogene Kologbo: tenor guitar; Leke Benson: rhythm guitar; Franco Aboddy: bass guitar; Henry Kofi: first conga; Nicholas Addo: second conga; Isaac Olaleye: maracas; James Abayomi: sticks; Tejumade Adebyi, Bernadette Oghomienor, Regina Ousfor, Felicia Idomi, Suru, Shade Komolafe: vocal chorus.

Ikoyi Blindness

Tracks: Ikoyi Blindness; Gba Mi Leti N'Dolowo.

Personnel: Fela Anikulapo Kuti: tenor and alto saxophone, keyboards, vocals; Tony Allen: drums, leader; Lekan Animashaun: baritone saxophone; Tunde Williams: trumpet; Ukem Stephen: second trumpet; Clifford Itoje: rhythm guitar; Leke Benson: tenor guitar; Franco Aboddy: bass guitar; Henry Kofi: first conga; Nicholas Addo: second conga; Sina Abiodun: third conga; Isaac Olaleye: maracas; James Abayomi: sticks; Tejumade Adebyi, Bernadette Oghomienor, Regina Ousfor, Folake Oladjo, Folake Olatunde, Bola Balogun, Rita Eweka, Shade Komolafe: vocal chorus.


Tracks: Zombie; Mister Follow Follow; Observation No Crime (previously unreleased); Mistake (previously unreleased).

Personnel: Fela Anikulapo Kuti: tenor and alto saxophone, keyboards, vocals; Tony Allen: drums, leader; Lekan Animashaun: baritone saxophone; Tunde Williams: trumpet; Ukem Stephen: second trumpet; Leke Benson: first guitar; Olawe Osemi: second guitar; Nweke Atifon: bass guitar; Henry Kofi: first conga; Nicholas Addo: second conga; Sina Abiodun: third conga; Isaac Olaleye: maracas; James Abayomi: sticks; Tejumade Adebyi, Bernadette Oghomienor, Folake Oladjo, Folake Olatunde, Bola Balogun, Shade Komolafe: vocal chorus.

Source and thanx!

Sep 13, 2009

Oneness Of Juju - African Rhythms


A landmark of Afro-centric jazz in the 70s -- and the first album by this famous underground collective! Oneness of Juju were a Washington DC-based group that grew out of the ashes of the Juju avant jazz ensemble -- formed in the culturally rich African-American community of DC in the 70s, with spiritual and political aspirations that stretched far beyond the average funky combo. This first album is a masterful blend of percussion, jazz, and a slight bit of funk -- alternating vocal tracks with harder-hitting jazz instrumentals, all held together under the leadership of sax player Plunky Nakabinde. The album's one of the greatest independent soul jazz albums of the 70s -- and it's filled with great tracks, such as the breakbeat classic "African Rhythms" and "Liberation Dues". Other titles include "Kazi", "Funky Wood", "Don't Give Up", "Poo Too", and "Incognito".


"One of the most groundbreaking bands of their time. From early avant-garde jazz work on the Strata East label to their later fusions of Afrobeat, funk and spiritual jazz, Oneness stand as a huge influence for today's jazz scene. Released in 1976, the African Rhythms album is Oneness Of Juju's masterpiece. Bandleader J. Plunky Branch had moved back to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia from New York and introduced R&B, funk and African percussion into his music to appeal to the local market. Topped by the soaring vocals of Jackie Holoman-Lewis, the Oneness sound became a tight, supremely soulful outfit. Although it sold to the local market, African Rhythms was revived in the late '80s when rare groove fever hit the UK. Ever since, the album has been an essential part of any soul and funk DJ's collection."


trut continue their re-issue program of the '70s catalogue with Oneness Of Juju, one of the most groundbreaking bands of their time. From early avant-garde jazz work on the Strata East label to their later fusions of Afrobeat, funk and spritual jazz, Oneness stand as a huge influence for today's jazz scene. Released in 1976, The African Rhythms album is Oneness Of Juju's masterpieces. Bandleader J. Plunky Branch had moved back to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia from New York and introduced R&B, funk and African percussion into his music to appeal to the local market. Topped by the soaring vocals of Jackie Holoman-Lewis, the Oneness sound became a tight, supremely soulful outfit. Includes the bonus tracks 'Liberation Dues' (instrumental) & 'African Rhythms' (45 version).



01. African Rhythms (7:17)
02. Kazi (4:20)
03. Funky Wood (1:13)
04. Tarishi (3:55)
05. Mashariki (3:22)
06. Chants (1:14)
07. Don't Give Up (5:41)
08. Incognito (8:10)
09. Poo Too (3:43)
10. Liberation Dues (4:34)
11. Liberation Dues (Instrumental) (8:40)
12. African Rhythms (45 Version) (3:40)