Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Femi Kuti on CNN’s Inside Africa

There is a half-hour segment currently running on CNN’s Inside Africa series that focuses on contemporary music scene in West Africa (primarily Nigeria), a scene that I find vapid - an opinion that causes the younger locals to label me “old school”. I simply find nothing in today’s big sunglasses, machine-driven beats, and insipid lyrics to inspire me when compared to what existed a few decades ago. I mean then the musicians actually played instruments. Just my opinion, I may be wrong.

The Inside Africa segment features a seven minute interview with Femi Kuti and some footage of the New Africa Shrine in Lagos. Click here to watch. Kudos to Femi's international publicity machine for getting him on CNN. In searching for the web link, I came across an interview with Femi where he described Afrobeat as “incredibly popular” – if that is so, he means outside of Nigeria because it is on life support here in its homeland. Fela Kuti so dominated the Afrobeat scene that his death nearly killed the entire genre; today you will be hard pressed to find live Afrobeat music in Nigeria outside of sons Femi and Seun playing with their respective bands at the Shrine. I understand that some of that crappy hip-hop so popular with the younger crowd has labeled itself Afrobeats just to confuse the issue. Afrobeats has nothing to do with Afrobeat beyond appropriating the name.

The CNN video opens with a shot of my friend, tenor saxophonist Dotun “Dotsax” Bankole, at 00:06; he shows up again a couple more times. Hope that does something good for his career as he is a solid player deserving wider exposure. I think I might have been present at the Shrine during one of the nights they were filming, as I previously noted Femi playing trumpet up on the riser with the horn section as shown in the final few seconds of the video. His yellow t-shirt looks mighty familiar too. I don’t remember seeing the cheesy CNN reporter at the Shrine, however. Throughout the segment, he wears what we used to call a sh*t eating grin back when I was growing up in the Midwest. He would have stood out like a sore thumb. You just don’t see smiles like that in Lagos.

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