Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway

Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway

by Trevor Schoonmaker
     
 

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Combine elements of Bob Marley, Malcolm X and Patrice Lumumba you get a sense of the power of the world's wildest rockstar. Fela created Afrobeat, an infectious mix of American funk and jazz with traditional Yoruba and highlife music, and used it to rail against the corrupt, hypocritical Nigerian government. Repeatedly targeted by police and military for his

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Overview

Combine elements of Bob Marley, Malcolm X and Patrice Lumumba you get a sense of the power of the world's wildest rockstar. Fela created Afrobeat, an infectious mix of American funk and jazz with traditional Yoruba and highlife music, and used it to rail against the corrupt, hypocritical Nigerian government. Repeatedly targeted by police and military for his rebellious, counter-culture lifestyle, he created a political party and seceded from the Nigerian state, renaming his commune the independent "Kalakuta Republic." Cultural icon and beloved hero of the pan-African world, Fela loomed large: captivating enormous crowds with electric performances (in Speedos or superfly suits), cherished by musicians from Paul McCartney to Mos Def, mourned by millions after his death from AIDS in 1997. These essays explore his fiery life and ever-growing legacy.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“...the book's diversity of perspectives is part of what makes it click.” —Malcolm Venable, Black Issues Book Review

“...a fascinating window onto the cultural politics of the developing world.” —Publishers Weekly Annex, 7/21/03

“Fela Anikulapo Kuti was James Brown, Huey Newton, Rick James, Bob Marley Duke Ellington and ODB all rolled up in one black African fist. The protest artist as a real live, awake and hungry human being. Africa's original rock superstar. The importance vitality and power of his work can not be overestimated. A pure blend of ancestry and modern marvel . If you don't know about Fela you surely need to find out now...!” —Mos Def

“An amazing compendium of work about the seminal 20th century African musical icon and activist.” —Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, author of Willow Weep for Me

“This is an excellent collection of articles on FELA, it gives so many angles for us to understand one of the most crucial African figures of this age.” —Angelique Kidjo

“This book is a trippy excursion into the world of conscious hero and musical icon Fela Kuti -- a must-read for all music lovers and people who care about the history and future of Africa and Africans around the world.” —Ahmir 'uestlove Thompson, The Roots

Publishers Weekly
Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti became a global superstar in the 1970s with his "Afrobeat" fusion of funk, jazz and Yoruba motifs. A counter-cultural icon, he scandalized Nigerian society with his pot-smoking, his sexually explicit lyrics and stage act, and his marriage to 27 of his dancers and back-up singers at once. And he was a staunch opponent of the Nigerian dictatorship and Western neo-colonialism in Africa (one song denounced water and electricity shortages, the United Nations Special Program for Third World Countries and the replacement of food crops by cash crops), a stance that earned him a series of beatings and imprisonments. This collection of essays and interviews explores the larger-than-life persona of Fela and his impact on world music and Nigerian culture. Joseph Patel posits Fela's music as the "primordial mass" from which house, techno and hip-hop sprang, tracing his influence through the minutiae of never-released recording sessions. John Collins gives a disturbing glimpse of life at Fela's Lagos commune, where he regularly had his acolytes beaten, while dele jegede paints a vivid portrait of the singer's charismatic stage presence. Yomi Durotoye applies heavy-handed critical theory to Fela's political lyrics (the line "Notin special about uniform" achieves "[t]he obliteration of the space between the binary oppositions of domination"). The most interesting essays debate Fela's oft-expressed opinion that authentic African women are subservient to men, a view vigorously contested by Nkiru Nzegwu, who notes the traditional independence of Nigerian women. While the collection leaves open the question of whether drugs, sex and Afrobeat contribute to a coherent world-view, it provides a fascinating window onto the cultural politics of the developing world. Photos. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti will probably never be as much a household name in the West as Bob Marley was and still is, but he was a true African and Third World superstar for almost 30 years until his death in 1997 from AIDS. He virtually invented Afrobeat, an intensely rhythmic hybrid of traditional Nigerian Highlife music and jazz. He was also a fiery, controversial figure in his native Nigeria and fought numerous battles with the government over his lifestyle and outspoken beliefs. This collection of excellent essays by those who knew him or followed his career-edited by the director of the Fela Project, a multimedia project on the artist's influence-explores Fela's legacy and chronicles key musical, political, African, and American cultural events that shaped his life. There are still not many books about this icon, so this collection should find an audience in public libraries collecting African music. It's a good companion to Michael E. Veal's Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon and Sola Olorunyomi's Afrobeat!: Fela and the Imagined Continent. Recommended.-Bill Walker, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781403962102
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
07/04/2003
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)

Meet the Author

Trevor Schoonmaker is an independent curator living in New York. He is director of the Fela Project, a multimedia project on the influence of Fela Kuti.

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