Jan 28, 2016

From Nigeria: The Faces - Wake Up Today

You hardly listen to records coming from Africa that are such pasterpieces. If it was not for the tempo, mostly mid tempo, of the LP, it would stand along with the Geraldo Pino killer releases. The record is quite impressive to any funk enthusiast, with a very American sounding. But it remains deep & raw in its feeling like the FREEDOM FAMILY holy grail released on EMI Nigeria around the same period.



A1 Together We Live
A2 All I Need From You
A3 Don't Let Nobody Tell You
A4 Uyoyo
B1 Wake Up Today
B2 Shoki Shoki Shombolo
B3 My First Love

Jan 25, 2016

From Ghana: Andy Vans - Come Closer

Unfortunately cannot find any information on this one ...


A1 Try To Give 2:45
A2 Paper Wrapped Pusher 3:02
A3 Biggy Do 4:20
A4 Ebusua Esuon 4:13
A5 Medze Ndaa Se Be Ma Nyame 3:40
A6 Come Closer 3:08
B1 Nsem Yi Adooso 2:32
B2 Onyame Sian 4:18
B3 Daabaa Adwendwen 3:15
B4 Dofo Ndyi Ekyir 5:03
B5 Two Man 3:30
B6 Hom Nsom No 3:20


Jan 19, 2016

Amazing NOW-AGAIN: Wake Up You! The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock, 1972-1977 Vol. 1 - BOOK + MUSIC

Rock in the wake of war: Our decade long investigation into Nigeria’s rock music scene during the 1970s culminates in the release of two album and books. Vol. 1 coming April 15, 2016.

The Western world was in the throes of peace, love, and flower power as Nigeria descended into Civil War in 1967. The rock scene that developed during the following three years of bloodshed and destruction would come to heal the country, propagate the world-wide ideal of the Modern Nigerian, and propel Fela Kuti to stardom after conflict ended in 1970.

Wake Up You! tells the story of this time, pays homage to these now-forgotten musicians and their struggle, and brings to light the funk and psychedelic fury they created as they wrested free of the ravages of the late 1960s and created thrilling, original Nigerian rock music throughout the 1970s.
Wake Up You! is presented in two 100+ page books full of never-seen photos and the story of the best Nigerian rock bands told in vivid detail by musicologist and researcher Uchenna Ikonne (Who Is William Onyeabor?).

Each volume is presented as both a hardbound book with CD in a resealable plastic sleeve, and as a double LP with a soft-cover book included in a custom-made 12″x 12″ book holder.

Check out for further information @

Jan 14, 2016

Sammy Cropper And His Wire Connections (get it)

Recently discovered ... amazing music!

Originally published by amazing OROGOD!

Don't be deceived by this album with this Guy Sammy Cropper, as the founder and leader of the Wire Connections group. He is still with the versatile Vis-A-Vis Dance Band. This is just a trying of his experience.

Sammy Cropper started playing the guitar in his elementary school days. By secondary and technical levels he was very good at it, and would entertain his contemporaries during free time.

He joined the Cubano Fiesta when he left school and remained with it for one year leaving to join the Supreme Starlight Band for the next five years, and from which he formed the versatile Vis-A-Vis.

Jan 13, 2016

Fela Kuti: 18 Interesting Facts About The Afrobeat Originator

Maybe not quite new information, but a nice list to share ...

01. Fela Kuti was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in Abeokuta, Nigeria. He lived from Oct. 15, 1938, to Aug. 2, 1997.

02. His political consciousness inspired him to change what he called his “slave name” Ransome and adopted the middle name “Anikulapo,” meaning “to have control over death,” in the late

03. In the 1960s, Kuti pioneered and popularized the Afrobeat genre, which is a combination of funk, jazz, salsa, calypso and traditional Nigerian music.

04. Once he had recorded a song, he never played it live again. He had reportedly been offered several thousands to perform his old hits, which he refused.

05. His rebellious song lyrics established him as a political dissident. Afrobeat was associated with making political, social and cultural statements about greed and corruption.

06. He was influenced by the teachings of American human rights activist Malcolm X. Kuti began to understand the effects white oppression and colonialism had on Africa. He also realized the importance of Pan-Africanism, unity of African nations and revolution.

07. Kuti fell in love with the growing Black Power movement happening in the United States in the 1960s. He was introduced to the Black Panthers while on tour in America in 1969.

08. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was an activist in the anti-colonial movement. She influenced her son’s political activism. In 1977, Fela Kuti released the album Zombie.

09. It was a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers by using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military and the way, he believed, the soldiers blindly followed orders. In response, the military attacked him and threw his mother out the window of their home.

10. In 1979, he formed his own political party – MOP (Movement of the People). He also ran for president of Nigeria twice.

11. In 2008, an off-Broadway production of Kuti’s life titled Fela! was produced. It was inspired by Carlos Moore’s 1982 book Fela, Fela! This Bitch of a Life.

12. On Nov. 22, 2009, Fela! began a run on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City. Jim Lewis helped co-write the play (along with director/choreographer Bill T. Jones), and obtained producer backing from rapper Jay-Z and actor, rapper Will Smith, among others.

13. The Broadway production received 11 2010 Tony Award nominations and won Best Choreography, Best Costume Design of a Musical and Best Sound Design of a Musical.

14. In 1978, Kuti married 27 women in a single wedding ceremony. He would eventually divorce them all.

15. In the documentary Finding Fela, he explained the decision: “I wanted it to be meaningful … to have a meaningful life. Tradition expects me to marry 27 women.”

16. He was briefly listed in the Guinness book of records for the most number of women married at one ceremony- 27, in 1978.

17. A million people marched with Fela’s Coffin on its final journey to burial in his house. More than have ever witnessed any state event in Nigeria.

18. He was given a brand new Mercedes Benz 280 Limo by his Record company, which he reputedly used regularly in loading up filthy firewood/charcoal used in cooking to feed the masses in his self-styled Republic.

Originally published @ howafrica.com

Jan 10, 2016

Vaudou Game LIVE (full concert)

Jan 8, 2016

South African Jazz: The Soul Jazzmen ‎– Inhlupeko Distress

Inhlupeko, alongside the other massive jazz hit of the era, Winston Mankunku's Yakhal'Inkomo, sums up the South African jazz sound and mood of the late 1960s, its bluesy inflections heralding a more hard-bop feel of music in the decade to come. Defiantly modern, and seeking inspiration from the "black heroes" of John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Johnny Hodges and Lockjaw Davis, this album envisioned what a new South Africa might sound like.

Tete Mbambisa composed four of the six tracks on the album. Of the two others, the title track is the work of tenorman Duku Makasi. The other track is a standard, Love for Sale, also frequently covered by Makasi’s contemporary, the equally important Winston ‘Mankunku’ Ngozi. Pianist Mbambisa’s memories reveal a great deal about the environment in which the progressive black players of the era worked. The album, recorded at the EMI Studios in Johannesburg – “they had the best sound at that time,” recalls Mbambisa – was the brainchild of two important jazz organisers of the era: Ray Thabakgolo Nkwe in Johannesburg and Monde Sikutshwa in Port Elizabeth (PE).

“Ray and Monde talked about doing an album with Duke and some other Eastern Cape musicians. After a while, they called me up from East London to do the arrangements. People know that’s my gift: from the time I was involved in vocal groups I have had an ear for arranging. Apart from Inhlupeko, Duke’s tune, I selected the tunes. We were all travelling at the time, doing shows, but there were long rehearsals for this material. We’d play, and discuss, and then go off to a shebeen – and carry on discussing the music. A lot of thinking went into it. I’d say probably about a month. I was travelling with the musicians in a kombi – it was supposed to be a jazz tour with Mankunku too, but he had another gig with Chris Schilder (Ibrahim Khalil Shihab) in Rustenburg, so in a way it became a launch for the Inhlupeko material.”

In fact, Mankunku was launching his second album as leader, Spring. Music writers at the time made much of the fact that the title track of that album was ‘stolen’ from the melody of Inhlupeko (and Makasi used to joke with Ngozi about it) but Mbambisa feels that something different was going on. “It was that Trane style. We were all in the same kind of place musically at that time.” South African jazz players felt a strong affinity with John Coltrane, who had died only a couple of years earlier. The expressive mastery of his playing and the soulful, spiritual searching of his mood served as both revelation and inspiration. It was the search for that Coltrane feel that guided Mbambisa’s final choice of players.

The acknowledged affinity in creative approach –in the words of trumpeter Johnny Mekoa: “these were our black heroes…and the music sounded a bit like our mbaqanga here” – fed, rather than stifled originality. In the music they created, South Africans always started from what another trumpeter from an earlier era, the late Banzi Bangani, called “that thing that was ours”, not only in musical idioms, but also in history and experience.

As scholar Robin Kelley has noted, both urban Africans and urban Americans were consciously crafting “modern” music – and in South Africa’s case, it was a modernism deliberately and defiantly set in opposition to the narrow, backwards-looking parochialism of apartheid, where some white universities did not even permit gender-mixed dancing until the 1970s. The sophisticated, snappily-dressed black players of South Africa’s cities in the 1960s were not trying to ‘be like’ America; rather, they were enacting in their performance, and reaching through their horns for what a new South Africa might sound like. Coltrane’s searching voice was a natural lodestone, for as Kelley has also observed: “the most powerful map of the New World is in the imagination.”

The studio session that laid down the tracks was far from the original liner note fable of a spontaneous blow over a bottle. As well as the extensive rehearsal that had preceded it, it carried its own stresses. “In those days,” Mbambisa recalls, “they used to tell you all the time how much they were paying for an hour in the studio. So they give you pressure: ‘Come on guys! This is costing me!” However, thanks to that extensive preparation, the pressure wasn’t too much of a problem. Mbambisa has always disliked an overworked feel on his recordings: “that’s why my albums catch that live feel, even from the studio.” That was particularly important for this session. The quality he was looking for was, he says, “connectedness. If you can’t be connected, forget it. So I told them: Hey, guys, let’s try and do these in one take only or we’ll lose the feel.” He says that none of the tracks used more than two takes, and most were completed in one.

But the hurried, penny-pinching recording was also reflected in the way the album was presented. Makasi’s name is inconsistently presented as ‘Duke’ and “Duku’ in different places. Even the title, Inhlupeko, appears in that form (the isiZulu spelling) on the cover and notes, but ‘Intlupheko’ (the isiXhosa form) on the disc label, suggesting a hasty process. The word itself can be translated as ‘distress’, but like many African-language words with their multiple poetic resonances, also as ‘inconvenience’, ‘trouble’, ‘poverty’ and more. For the artists it had all those resonances – to whose more political implications Nkwe would certainly not have wished to draw attention in his translation. The players were not told about the planned cover images, nor, as Mbambisa’s story confirms, were they sent copies of the LP. There was no advertising and no formal launch, and Mbambisa recalls that Sikutshwa also received no communication about the release. The LP was clearly pressed in a fairly small run, for when Mbambisa tried to buy his own copy, he could not immediately find it in any shops.

The image conveyed by the cover also fitted well with other cultural currents of the era. The 1960s and 1970s were dominated by apartheid’s re-tribalisation project: a propaganda push to both the majority population and the world that black South Africans (even those whose families had been city-dwellers for decades) were essentially simple, rural people with no place in the cities and no capacity for sophisticated culture. Official patronage was given to neo-traditional sounds, particularly via the State broadcaster, the SABC, split into narrow, tribally based stations, the purity of whose musical contents must be verified by apartheid ‘experts’. In this context, state censors would certainly smile more kindly on an album whose images placed a syncretic music like jazz in a more disreputable corner.


A1 Inhlupeko 10:33
A2 Relaxin' 08:08
A3 Mr Mecca 06:33
B1 How Old Is The World 08:45
B2 Love For Sale 09:56
B3 Dollar The Great 04:05

Jan 7, 2016

Finding Fela: The Film No Afrobeat Fan Can Miss

Finding Fela, a documentary film that opened in New York and other cities on Aug. 1, is an instant classic in the world of popular music documentaries.  No African musician can boast a story to top Fela’s, and it’s hard to imagine there will ever be a more definitive film version of that story than this one. That is largely because of the time and care director Alex Gibney and his team have taken in putting this together, and, importantly, the willing cooperation of Fela’s family and others who have access to extraordinary footage from the man’s singularly dramatic life.

This film operates on multiple levels. In a sense it grew out of the Broadway musical Fela!, and includes clips of stage performances, and—more interestingly—of the show’s creators, including Bill T. Jones, deliberating about what to include or not include. They fret over how to handle sensitive matters such as Fela’s ravenous sexual appetite and his denial of the existence of AIDS, the disease that ultimately killed him. So we are aware that a legend is being shaped, but also, that there is recent, well-remembered truth, not all of which fits the legend. Unlike the Broadway show, this film is interested in all that nuance and complexity.

The archival footage is extraordinary, letting us see and feel, for example, the raids on Fela’s compound, the Kalakuta Republic as never before. But what really helps us sense we are “finding Fela” is the frank and revealing commentary from people close to him and, especially, from key family members: Fela’s daughter Yeni and sons Femi and Seun. We sense the struggles they endured. We don’t feel they are obscuring complexity with hagiography. We trust them, and that puts the story and the man in perspective like nothing we’ve seen before. This is the same magic that worked so well in Marley, the acclaimed 2012 Bob Marley documentary, and it is equally effective here.
Right after Fela died, there was reported tension within the family, particularly between bandleader brothers Femi and Seun. Watching this film, though, one senses that the years have smoothed the edges of rivalry and jealousy. And why not? The members of this large extended family are now guardians of a highly marketable story and a huge body of persistently fascinating music. Today, with Yeni operating the Africa Shrine in Lagos, Seun leading Fela’s old band in new directions, and Femi continuing with his band Positive Force, it seems that these three key family members are working in concert. Best of all, they seem comfortable talking about their mythologized father as a human being, one with genius talent and at times monstrous shortcomings.

This is a film Afrobeat aficionados will want to own and watch again and again, for the task of finding Fela is no easy one. Fela is a puzzle with a variety of solutions no one of which quite satisfies. That, like the best of his music, will keep us coming back for more.

Originally published @ afropop.org 

Jan 6, 2016

Lagos lineage with Femi Kuti

Originally published @skiddle.com

Mark Dale chats to one of the world's greatest living Afrobeat stars, Femi Kuti about his father, family, re-opening The Shrine, and the state of Nigeria ahead of hitting Manchester in July 2015.

Femi Kuti is a Nigerian musician and songwriter who has lead his own band, Positive Force, for over 25 years. He has achieved considerable acclaim for live performances with this large scale ensemble, who specialise in the funk, jazz and traditional music-inspired Afrobeat.

Highly political in its lyrical content, Afrobeat was invented and pioneered by Femi Kuti's father, Fela Kuti, one of Africa's first global music superstars who, through ceaseless practice, innovation and international touring, honed the music to become one of the best possible soundtracks to dancing.

Since his death in 1997, Fela's legend has only grown, his music constantly reissued and his lifestory recently turned into a musical "Fela!"

As the eldest son of Fela Kuti, Femi continues this tradition. Having played within his father's band as a teen, he struck out on his own in the late eighties and ever since has helmed a politically charged, upbeat dance band that thrill festival and club audiences the world over. Along the way he has produced seven albums and worked with the likes of  D'Angelo, Macy Gray, Nile Rodgers, Common, Mos Def and Jaguar Wright.

Speaking to Mark Dale from his home, which is ten minutes outside of Lagos, Femi Kuti talks about Afrobeat, his father's legacy, politics and his efforts to re-open The Shrine, the Lagos-based nightclub which his father first opened as a focal point for his musical and political expression. He also delivers the surprise news that the Fela Kuti dynasty will continue exclusively on this stint of UK dates.

"My bassist resigned," says Femi Kuti. "There's no way I can get a visa for the new bass player in time. But luckily my son, Made, is at Trinity College of Music in the UK, so he will come and play with me."

What does it mean to be an ambassador for Amnesty International and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador? What do you do?

Well, for Amnesty, if there's some kind of crisis or injustice somewhere, they use me to speak out about it and highlight the problem, like maybe talking about Boko Haram in Nigeria. The same for UNICEF, really. I might go to an affected area and see the problem for myself and I'm used to highlight the problem, as a method of communicating with the people about a specific problem.

You take your job as a musician very seriously and try to practice for six hours a day. How many instruments do you play?

I play the sax and the trumpet and I fool around on the piano. But the instrument I spend most time on now is the trumpet because I'm trying to take my trumpet playing to the same level as my sax playing. The first instrument I had was a trumpet, but my father didn't give me a teacher for that, so it just lay in the house. My father moved to the sax and he asked me if I wanted to also move to the sax, I obliged and said yes.

Did your father teach you how to play sax? Is that why you chose that instrument? Did you want to be like him?

Yes, I think so, but did he teach me? No, he just put it in my mouth. He told me how to hold it and taught me how to blow into it, but that's all. Growing up I had always loved the trumpet, that's why I picked it up again in about 2001.

Was it a difficult decision for you to leave your father's band and establish your own group Positive Force? Did you ever regret making that decision?

Yes, it was an incredibly difficult decision because I understood the consequences of what I was going to do. I had to be prepared psychologically for it. I knew my father would be upset with me, I knew everybody would be upset with me, the family, all his fans.

I'm convinced it was the right decision to make. I didn't like that my father and I fell out about it, but I knew it was the right thing to do. It took a long while for him to understand... it took a long time for us to become friends again. It was a high price, but definitely the right choice. 

If I hadn't taken that decision then I would not be in the position I'm in today. I would probably still have been leading his band at his death and my whole life would have been about his band. I didn't really want that. I was already being groomed to be like him, I was dressing like him, I sang and played like him. Everything was about me taking over. And something in me just wanted more than that. I wanted freedom to really express myself.  

Afrobeat is an angry music, yet your group is called Positive Force (watch them above). Can anger be a positive emotion?

Yes. The reason for the group being called Positive Force was I needed a name to make people understand why I took the decision to leave my father. It was for good reasons that I chose to leave, not for the reasons that many people thought. I needed a positive name to express that. 

Yes, afrobeat is anger, but it's not a violent anger. It's an anger that's trying to make people see that there needs to be urgent change if there's not going to be a catastrophe, if we are to avoid anarchy and chaos. If people do not solve these problems we are going to be in a much bigger mess than we are already in. 

It is an anger directed towards corruption and injustice, a call that we must address these matters before it becomes a crisis that is unresolvable.

On your 2001 album Fight To Win you seemed to be trying to move away from a traditional Afrobeat sound, yet on later albums you have returned to a more recognisable Afrobeat sound. Are you conflicted about being described as an Afrobeat artist?

No, I want to be described as an Afrobeat artist. The way I write my music is always with an open mind. I don't restrict myself to a particular pattern. I think that's why people say that I do a lot of different things, like experimenting with machines in the studio. That's me trying to enhance my creativity. I will go to the studio and try things in Afrobeat that people would not think were possible. That's the way I am.

The opportunity came to work with people like Mos Def, Common (above), Jaguar Wright and I seized it. I had reached a new peak of popularity at that time so I thought it was an important time to try and communicate with African Americans. 

At that time there was a lot of distorted news coming from Africa and especially Nigeria and I thought it would be better to try and show the picture from my perspective and the perspective of the common people, who rarely have the opportunity to tell their story. I wanted to show that if the people here act in a manner that the world doesn't understand, why it is that they act like that.
We have no education, no healthcare service, corruption is widespread. There's so much oil and yet some people don't have electricity, so of course some of them will become nuisances when they grow up. I had to tell the African community this story. 

Maybe they had an idea of this, from listening to my father, but I thought it also needed to come from me. So, my collaborations were instigated on this basis. It wasn't like I was moving away from Afrobeat, it was just that I thought it was important to build that bridge. 

Why did you want to re-open The Shrine (watch Femi play The Shrine above)?

I thought that was the best way to honour my father at his death. The Shrine that he had was taken from him because when he bought the land he was tricked. It was a lease. He thought, when he signed the contract, that he was buying the land. He was in court for over a decade, until his death, fighting the landowners.

The law in Nigeria states that in a dispute over land, if the challenger dies, then the case cannot go further. So, we could not take up the fight with the landowners, but it was very important to us to try and bring back The Shrine in order to keep Fela's legacy. 

So, what happened was that, when we reached an agreement over the licensing deal to release my father's back catalogue, I managed to convince my elder sister, my younger sister...... my side of the family, to use our own money to buy land and build The Shrine in his honour. 

It is a place where we honour not only my father, but also people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, great Africans who have fought for the emancipation of Africa and Africans. This was his dream.

How often is The Shrine open and what kind of music is played there? Do you have African stars from countries outside Nigeria coming to play there? How is it different from other clubs in Lagos?

It was opened in 2000. I play there two times a week now. My younger brother Seun plays there once a month, on the last Saturday. We have a festival in October. Everyone's invited, other Afrobeat groups play there, the Nigerian hip hop scene comes there. It's not strictly for Afrobeat. 

Hugh Masekela has played there, King Sunny Ade, many. Many bands from Kenya, Ghana, Mali. As for the other clubs, I am not the social kind, I never go out, so you're asking the wrong person that question. There's a place called The Freedom Park, they have live music there also.

Two of the strongest elements in Afrobeat are funk music and jazz music. Many people would consider these musical style to be American music. Would you say that's true?

[laughs] Why would you say that these were American musics when they were developed by Africans?

Well, if you asked the people who developed that music in America, maybe they would consider themselves to be American.

That is the effect of colonisation. If you asked an enlightened American, they would tell you that it's African, the inspiration comes from Africa and that the people who developed it are African. They would tell you that their ancestors were stolen from here, taken to America to be slaves. 

An African American who doesn't know his past, or indeed his present, would probably say that it's American, yes, I accept that. But what you have to understand is that this music did come from the African community in America and that community is... African. 

This music came out of the blues, developed through jazz, be-bop, funk, pop, rock and now hip hop. If you speak to connoisseurs or the composers themselves, people like Miles Davis, they could instantly see the connection. They knew exactly where my father was coming from. They understood the roots.

The last time I was in Africa a lot of the young people were enjoying hip hop, R&B and reggae music. How popular is traditional music in Africa?

I don't know in other parts, I can't say for sure, but it depends on the traditional music. There is one called apala, that's from the west, and another called fuji and they are very popular. They don't get airplay, but they do have a very large following. The stars of those musics are very popular at grassroots level. 

You played a concert with your brother Seun earlier this year and I read that this was the first time you'd done that. How was that experience?

It wasn't the first time. We'd played together before, in Denmark and we regularly play together at The Shrine. But it was the first time we played together in Nigeria outside of The Shrine, so some people tried to make a big thing of it. It was a big deal for some people. It was a big deal for my brother, I think, because of his age. 

Some people like to trouble him that there are still frictions within the family. My brother and I have no problems. He really went all out to make sure this gig happened. Maybe, because of my age, I was very cool about it. 

If people want to make up stories about there being a friction, then that's their business. At my age I really don't let things like that bother me. So, for a lot of people it was a big deal, but for me? We talk on the phone all the time and we already played together.

Corruption exists throughout society, not only at the top of society, with politicians and big business. Do you think these are new problems?

I think these are problems that have always existed, but it's particularly bad right now because it has become like a culture. Especially in Nigeria. Everyone here believes that if you are not corrupt you cannot be successful. I think it will change but it has to change from leadership. 

When governments start acting in the kind of manner in which they're supposed to act, be a government of the people, for the people, as it should be, slowly society will change. When people understand that to be corrupt is evil, society will change. 

Here it's all too evident that corruption controls everything because everyone is corrupt, your driver is corrupt, your household is corrupt. You can't trust anybody and that is too sad. But this hasn't just happened yesterday, it has been going on for the last 30 years and has been going downhill since.
I really don't believe that all is lost. I am still very optimistic that a generation will come and realise that things have to change and demand that change. You can seee signs that is already happening. Young people here are very sad and very vocal about the situation and you can hear that, like in some Nigerian hip hop. 

I don't believe this generation can bring about the change that's needed, but they can influence the next generation and maybe they will be the ones to say enough is enough and can bring about that change. Maybe this can happen 20 - 50 years from now. 

Do you think young people in Nigeria are proud of Nigeria?

They are upset, but yes, they are proud of Nigeria. 

Do you think that pride people have, in an individual nation, maybe stops them seeing a bigger picture, one of Pan-Africanism?

Well this is what Patrice Lumumba fought for and died for, this is what my father's life was all about. Until we see the bigger picture we will just keep going round in circles. People who are nationalist like this, they don't want people to see the big picture, because if they do, that's the first step to bringing down all the corruption. 

We need to think of ourselves as brothers and sisters, as one people. We need to understand that Nigeria, along with every Southern African country, these are just colonial structures. There is a voice that says these things, but it is not in the majority right now. Their voices are always drowned out by the nationalist voices, who pretend to be very patriotic. But it's a very convenient patriotism.
Why can't the African people stand firm, come together, protect themselves, protect their continent, protect their traditions and culture? 

Today we can see many young Africans who don't like the indigenous names, they prefer to be called David Simpson, because they believe they will get a better job than if they are called Kokumo. But this has always been the fight of my father, my fight and the fight of Afrobeat. It is a difficult fight because the nationalist voice is a corrupt one and it steals in order to be able to silence the other voice. Though it's not as loud, that other voice is still there.

There is a familiarity not only in the music of you and your father, but also in the words that you speak. How do you think your father would feel knowing that you still sing about many of the same problems he complained about?

It's very sad. My father was saying these things when I was 13. Now I'm 53. I think my father was already a very depressed person before he died. He was always in very deep thought. If he saw the way Nigeria was now being run, I think he would die from high blood pressure.

I read that you're a judge on Nigerian Idol.

I resigned. The programme is on the world stage, I tried to advocate that it should be more African. It's too American. We should be showing Africa to the rest of the world, not try to imitate others. We should be encouraging the younger ones to play musical instruments, learn a skill, have a career for life, but what happens on Nigerian Idol is that all these young people come out, they make a lot of noise, then they become nothing. 

Then they start roaming the streets. They don't even bring out a song. They become stars only with their pictures in the paper, but in reality they are nothing. And yet they go there with so many dreams. I did not want to be part of something that did not mean more than that.

Your father's story was in the past few years successfully translated onto the stage in the production of Fela! Do you think the time is right for a movie to be made of his story?

Yes, I was very impressed with Fela! I cried when I watched it. I think a film of his story would be magnificent, if it's done properly. Mindblowing.

How important is it to you that your own children follow you into music?

I don't know if it's important like that. What's important is that they are happy and they can be what they want to be. That's what's important.

If they don't want to play music, that's not something that will make me turn over in my grave. They all seem to be wanting to play music and that doesn't freak me out, if it's something they are happy doing. But if they choose to do something else, as long as they are smiling, that will make me a happy father. 

What is the difference between arrogance and self belief?

[laughs] That's a very deep question. It could go many ways. Arrogance is like corruption. Arrogance doesn't really mean that you know what you are doing or can do what you say you can do.
Self belief should come with being humble and with the understanding that mistakes can happen. I think to be humble, to be like that, it comes with being spiritual. 

Arrogance is very negative, it means you think you are insurmountable and you think you know a lot, but you don't even know God. If you are arrogant it means you are disrespectful to other people, you don't care. 

If you have self belief, you are more likely to respect other people, to help them, because probably you have made mistakes, but you are the kind of person who can learn from these mistakes and then want to correct other people from making these same mistakes, that's why you believe you are right in the path you have decided to go. If you understand what I'm trying to say. One is negative, one is positive.

Originally published @skiddle.com

Jan 4, 2016

Seun Kuti remembers ...

... when his father let him join the band

Originally published @ livenation.vice.com 

The Afrobeat virtuoso reflects on growing up under Fela Kuti's tutelage—and what American culture can take away from his music today.

For most musicians, the first step on the road to becoming a master is having a good teacher, and Seun Kuti had one of the best. His father was Fela Kuti, inventor of Afrobeat—a steadily percolating combination of funk and soul with traditional African rhythms—and a political firebrand who enraged the Nigerian government with songs criticizing their corruption and manipulation. Afrobeat was more than just a musical genre—it became the voice of an oppressed people, offering home and encouragement when everything around them seemed bleak.

As a child, Seun would watch his father religiously, eventually working up the courage to ask for a place in his band. Instead of scoffing at his son's request, Fela welcomed him, and taught him how to deliver the music's rich political content while also delivering a stunning live show. When Fela died in 1997, Seun assumed his place at the front of his band Egypt 80 at the ripe old age of 14. Since then, he's carried on both his father's musical and political legacy, singing songs that dismantle unjust government systems and holding audiences rapt while he does it.

On a cloudy day in Manhattan, Seun spoke about the importance of carrying the message of Afrobeat forward, and the amusing reason why he felt he could stand toe-to-toe with his legendary father. Here's his story:

When I was a child watching my dad perform, I remember thinking, "This is the easiest job ever!" [Laughs] "He doesn't do anything! He goes on stage and plays his own music, everybody loves him, they pay him all the money, and women are everywhere. This is the easiest job ever!" I was stupid, and stupid people are very brave.

When I was eight years old, I went to my dad's show at the Apollo in New York, and after the show I said, "I want to sing." He asked, "Can you sing?" I said, "Yes!" I auditioned for him and he said, "You can start practicing with the band when we get back to Lagos." Music is not the easiest job, though. I had to learn how to stay in tune when I sang. During the first rehearsal, I was doing a little show, and my father said to me, "You can't be dancing! You can't be a star during the first rehearsal! You have to watch the band and get the cues right!" So when the first show came around, I just watched the band, and he came over to me in the middle of the show and said, "Why are you watching the band? It's showtime!"

When my dad died, the family wanted the band to break up—but we believed in music, and we believed in Fela. The only way to keep the band going was for me to say, "I'm Fela's son, I have a say, and I want to keep playing with the band." Not everyone agreed with me, but there were a few people in the band who believed in Fela's message.

Even as a kid, I knew my father stood for something. He never related to us like we were children. He wanted us to know that we were part of something bigger than ourselves. Our music is not just entertainment. It's a political statement, a musical statement, an individual statement, a social statement. The music came from a place of representation, a place of love. It's real love to use one's gifts to the benefit of everybody, and Afrobeat was created for that purpose—to give the voiceless a voice. It's the voice of the people.

I think American audiences share that spiritual connection to the music, but they don't share the political connection. An American can empathize, and do what he can through his own system to stop whatever negative impact his system is having on our system. But I don't see African problems primarily as a problem for America, and I'm very skeptical of Americans who say that they are. What is important to me when we're playing for American audiences is that they take away the importance of the music, and how it can affect their own personal lives positively. How the message can help them become better human beings is important to me. It's important to understand that, as Africans, we have to be the ones to tell our own stories. The importance of our lives cannot be more important to any other person than we ourselves.

For me, the major thing I learned from Fela is that he did what he wanted on stage. The stage was his throne, and he wanted that to be his own moment, free from any other kind of obligation or compromises. His stage was a place of honesty and of him being in his complete element. That's something I always take with me on stage. It's where I can be me completely. I'm not compromised, I don't have to explain myself. I can just be what I want to be.

Originally published @ livenation.vice.com

Jan 2, 2016

Karl Hector & The Malcouns - Can't Stand The Pressure

Following their deft handling of musics from Eastern and Northern Africa alongside Western psychedelia, jazz and funk on Unstraight Ahead, Karl Hector & The Malcouns combine the previously available only on vinyl tracks from four EP's - Tamanrasset, Ngugna Yeti Fofa, Coomassi and Ka Rica Tar – into an album as Krautrock as Afro Beat, as Multi-Culti-Psychedelic as Deep Funk.