Chicago, like many cities worldwide, has been encountering a resurgence in interest towards African music and more particularly the style better known as Afrobeat and its pioneer, Nigerian born and based Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The turbulent and amazing prolific career of musician and political activist Fela is the focus of the Broadway Tony Award winning musical currently playing at the Oriental Theater in Chicago. Local bands like Chicago Afrobeat Project pay homage to Fela and his infusion of jazz with soul, funk, rock and African rhythms while the local nightclub The Shrine is based upon Fela’s own musical venue in Lagos.
But what more could there possibly be to say about Fela Kuti? For many of us, Kuti’s music has been the primary entry point to the incredibly fertile terrain of hybrid African music. Aside from the obvious honor of having the privilege of releasing some of the first unheard Felarecordings in over twenty years, the fact that these recordings even exist in the first place is something of a marvel.
In 1984, Fela Kuti had planned to leave Nigeria to tour abroad, but was arrested and imprisoned on dubious charges of “currency trafficking,” preventing him from leaving the country. It took two years, and efforts from Amnesty International before Fela once again was able to share his music with the world. The music featured on this album was recorded the year of his release, live at the Fox Theater in Detroit.
The songs featured here, the shortest clocking in at 29 minutes and 35 seconds, aren’t among Fela’s best known compositions, though they did feature on studio albums with the Egypt 80 band. It’s in these unbridled live performances though that the material truly comes alive, complete with audience interaction, the incredible musicianship of the band, and Kuti’s inimitable vocal stylings. It’s evident that the audience as completely entranced.
Fela Kuti – Live In Detroit is a document of one of the greatest performers of the 20th Century, and we’re honored to be able to share it with you. The album will be released on Strut on May 8th on Strut Records internationally, and via our friends at Knitting Factory in the US. The Strut release will be a double CD / four vinyl / digital format.
In conjunction with this release, Maria;s Package Goods & Community Bar (960 W. 31st St.) is presenting a listening party on Friday, May 11 at 8PM for FELA KUTI LIVE IN DETROIT 1986. Hosted by DJ Joe Bryl, the evening will also highlight other Fela releases plus various Nigerian and African artists from the past and present that where greatly influenced by the master of Afrobeat. We will be showing rare live footage of Fela at The Shrine in Lagos and other related African musical videos as a visual backdrop for the event.