Afrobeat is on the menu this Saturday night starting from 10PM as the annual FELA festival hits the town at Club Cultural Matienzo. This year marks the fifth birthday of the landmark event, the first ever solely Afrobeat devoted festival. The night is named after founding father of this fantastic genre, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Over the years it has played host to over 10,000 enthusiasts and there’s no good reason to not be one of those numbers this year. Its mission? To develop the map of Afrobeat on a world level and amplify the music to the masses. In the words of the late great Miles Davis, “Afrobeat is the music of the future”.
On the bill will be revered saxophonist Sergio Dawi (of Argentine legends, Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota), alongside two energetic orchestras Val Veneto and Orquesta P.E.RR.O and Afro-ballet and contemporary dance company, yes you read that right. The night will then be topped off with by four funky DJs. If wanting to lose some holiday weight forget the gym and come boogie to Afrobeat for seven sweet hours.
Born in Nigeria back in 1938, Fela Kuti was raised in a musical and politically aware household, his father was a pastor and talented pianist and his mother was strongly involved in anti-military and anti-colonial movements.
Shipped off to London to study Medicine, Fela instead followed music, forming his first band Koola Lobitos in 1961. He resurfaced back in Nigeria two years later where he created the politically laced genre that is Afrobeat. The recipe? Equal shares of West-African music styles such as highlife (a music genre originating from Ghana), jazz and funk, and a singing-style mixed with tribal chants and James Brown-esq shrieks— eurekaa! Afrobeat is born.
Afrobeat was an empowering tool for Fela who showed his activism through music, his lyrics often denouncing corruption and abuses of power throughout Nigeria, even name-dropping particular villains.This saw a life full of twists and turns, concerts packed with adoring fans yet countless incarcerations, over 200 in fact.
His music career spanned years, clocked up 50 albums and gained the admiration of millions. Fela was also immersed in various political activities, twice running for President of Nigeria. At the age of 58 Fela tragically died from AIDs and his funeral was no small feat. It has been speculated that five million devotees attended, clearly his voice resonated with a nation.
Saturday, January 14th
Club Cultural Matienzo (Pringles 1249, Palermo)
You can grab tickets here.