Fela Lives!By Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

Fela Lives!
By Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

Published on Tue, Jul 03 2007 by Iquo Essien

(Photo credit: Iquo B. Essien/The AFRican Blogger)

Good people. There was a lot going on this past weekend, so much so that after the Afro-Punk Block Party, on Sunday afternoon, I debated sleeping through the Seun Kuti concert at SOB's. I am capable of incredibly bourgeois audacity at times, but, luckily, I picked myself off of the couch at 8:45PM to make the 9:00PM show, certain that it would start AP time anyways.

I was fashionably late in a form-fitting, thigh-length dress over leggings and pumps. I snaked my way up to the front of the stage where a battalion of gray-haired, ponytailed, white men were busy snapping pictures of ShowBoy, Fela's former right hand man, who was burning up on the sax tryna warm up the crowd. He's of short stature with a flattened face and glass eye, though he nevertheless set his sights on the crowd in concentration while working a riff, before breaking into a toothy grin.

Seun took the stage to uproarious applause. He wore a silky, almost iridescent, zebra-inspired button down shirt over a snug pair of baby blue slacks cut to flatter his narrow waist. He is the spitting image of his father and, at just 25-years-old, has the moves and chops to back it up. "Everybody say 'ye ye'!" he shouted, as the audience chanted back, "Ye ye!"

The crowd writhed together as if one being. Then it was time for Political Science 101.

"In Africa, everybody with a political post is automatically a millionaire," Seun schooled us. "We are serving our government. They are our masters."

He equated serving the government to begging daddy for help, launching into "Na Oil," a song from his upcoming album. At the chorus, he asked, "Make una help me beg daddy-o!" as the audience replied, "Dem dem dem daddy-o!"

The dancers, including Seun's sister Moturayo, were not as good as Femi's. They stood in the background and barely broke a sweat, expending more energy tryna look cute in their crotch-length yellow skirts, split up the sides, with matching halter tops and multi-colored beads slung crisscrossed over their torsos. Seun more than compensated for them, though, with funky moves that made me want to jump up and get down.

Whenever one of his bandmates came up to the front for a solo, I was surprised at the level of graciousness with which Seun helped set up the mic, then moved to the background so as not to upstage him. He has a humility that one rarely sees matched with such prodigious talent. I have no doubt that it is borne of a respect and reverence that he has for his father -- as evidenced by his back tatt, which read "Fela Lives" in gothic lettering, revealed after a trademark Kuti strip down -- and the tradition started by Egypt 80, the men who made Fela a legendary performer while giving birth to the inimitable afrobeat genre.

Glancing around the room at the multi-ethnic, -faith, -colored, and -creed audience, I had to wonder if afrobeat was still the music of resistance, having been universally accepted as the hippest, most shake-your-azz-to isht in the world. Does politically-charged music, particularly in Nigeria, still serve the purpose it once did?

I can't answer that. But the politics of afrobeat, particularly within the Kuti legacy, are deep enough.

Rumor has it that Femi and Seun, after years of a bitter rivalry, are finally speaking to each other. It was always evident to onlookers that the latter was Fela's favorite. Seun was performing with his dad from the tender age of 9-years-old, while Femi, already in his mid-twenties, was busy establishing his name.

Always driven to create his own sound to distinguish himself from his larger-than-life dad, Femi succeeded in distancing and creating a name for himself, particularly when he disbanded Egypt 80 after Fela's death. Now, a decade later, little Seun -- fresh out of music school -- is the one to bring the band back together under the capable leadership of Baba Ani.

The effort has not been without its hiccups, namely a court battle between the brothers that ended with Seun being denied the rights to several of his father's songs, prohibiting him from remixing then on his upcoming album.

Even if Femi and Seun cannot get along, as the tour T-shirt proclaims, Afrobeat Rules. There was a prophetic energy at the gathering, like Fela himself was reaching from beyond the grave into the future, still setting hearts, minds, and bodies on fire.

After the all-too-short performance -- Seun didn't come back for an encore even though the crowd was screaming -- DJ Rich Medina of Jump-n-Funk ministered to us with his trademark grooves. I cut a few rugs up, with some well-hidden paparazzi getting prime shots. Let me know if y'all come across my face on any other websites. I want a cut of the profit! LOL.


The AFRican Blogger

P.S. If you want to hear for yourself, check out Seun Kuti on Myspace. FYI, his singles are out on 12-inch vinyl for all you DJ heads...


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