WORLD MUSIC: The Black President ; the Extraordinary Musical Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Is Finally to Be Given the Celebration It Deserves, Says MARTIN LONGLEY
Longley, Martin, The Independent (London, England)
T he death of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti came as a surprise to many. Outwardly in peak physical form, the 58-year-old Nigerian singer, saxophonist and keyboardist - and Africa's most influential composer - eventually succumbed to complications arising from Aids. An outspoken critic of political corruption in his country, Kuti had been a charismatic, idiosyncratic musician who recorded more than 60 albums of his signature style Afrobeat, and, alongside Ravi Shankar, brought "world music" to the rock-fed masses across Europe and the US. This month, seven years after his untimely passing, the Barbican mounts a celebration of his extraordinary life.
At the centre of the festival is Black President: the Art and Legacy of Fela Kuti, including a group exhibition curated by Trevor Schoon- maker at The Curve gallery. On display are works by 34 artists who were inspired by Kuti, and, for the first time in Europe, original designs by Gharioku Lemil, Kuti's album-cover illustrator. The exhibition includes intimate photographs of the singer, taken by his close friend Femi Osunla. In October, the Barbican screens a series of films, including the 1982 documentary Music Is The Weapon. BBC Radio 3 is to broadcast a documentary to coincide with the season, presented by DJs Max Reinhardt and Rita Ray, organisers of the Shrine nights at Cargo in London, modelled on Kuti's original Lagos club.
Kuti's prolific musical career was nurtured in London at the Royal College of Music, where he studied in the late 1950s. He went on to lead bands across Africa, including Nigeria and Egypt, and toured and recorded in Britain and the US. His upbringing was privileged, but he changed his original middle name of Ransome to Anikulapo as a rejection of its colonialist associations.
His music is a fusion of West African `Highlife" pop, heavy Yoruba drumming, James Brown funk and searing Sun Ra big-band jazz, but always channelled through his fiercely individual style. The music is crown-ed by Kuti's convoluted pidgin English rants, repetitively building up a tirade of satirical observations on all forms of corruption.
The musician paid a price for …
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Publication information: Article title: WORLD MUSIC: The Black President ; the Extraordinary Musical Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Is Finally to Be Given the Celebration It Deserves, Says MARTIN LONGLEY. Contributors: Longley, Martin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 3, 2004. Page number: 19. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.