Felabration marks the birthday of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the defining creator of the funk, jazz and rhythmic force that is Afrobeat, which emerged in Nigeria in the 1970s. As well as a composer and multi-instrumentalist genius, Fela was a human rights activist and defiant political and social maverick whose influence continues to reverberate throughout Africa and beyond. Fela passed away 19 years ago; his funeral in Lagos was attended by more than one million people. This October Fela would have turned 78.
Felabration has been the brainchild of Fela’s son Femi Kuti and his sister Yeni who, a decade ago in their atmospheric 2,500-capacity venue New Afrika Shrine in Lagos, created a week-long series of events around Fela’s birthday that gave artists and audiences alike the opportunity to salute their father, the late, great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Artist after artist after artist, superstars and unknowns alike, climbing up on the stage to pay homage to the much-loved Fela, watched by 2,500 avid fans inside, and another 2,500 on screens outside.
This phenomena has built up over the years to include international artists, such as Damon Albarn, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Third World, Ziggy and Rita Marley, and Afrobeat bands from such far-flung outposts as Japan and Colombia, all of whom made the pilgrimage to Fela’s spiritual home in Lagos.
But Felabration is not only an annual event in Lagos but also a global one: last year more than 20 Felabrations took place around the world, in major cities across the United States and Europe, and in such unexpected locations as Jakarta, Indonesia, Osaka, Japan and Reykjavik, Iceland.
London’s 2015 Felabration took place in the magnificent atrium of the British Library, as part of their ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ exhibition. The event was completely sold out and many people were turned away at the door. Here are some of last year’s highlights:
Laura Mvula performing Fela’s “Opposite People”: https://youtu.be/
Shingai Shoniwa (Noisettes) performing Fela’s “Lady”: https://youtu.be/3eLj-
Tony Allen, 2face Idibia & Laura Mvula performing Fela’s “Water No Get Enemy”: https://youtu.be/
This year’s London Felabration will take place on Friday, 7 October 2016, at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, with the blessings of the Kuti Family and curated by Rikki Stein who managed Fela Kuti and whose 50+ album back catalogue (available on Knitting factory Records) he continues to administer.
The supercharged tribute to the man and his music will be led by Dele Sosimi and his 15-piece Afrobeat Orchestra. Dele Sosimi played keyboards as part of Fela’s Egypt 80 band from 1979 to 1986 and created the Positive Force band with Fela’s son, Femi Kuti, with whom he performed from 1986 to 1994.
During the show a number of exciting guest vocalists will be singing their favourite Fela songs, backed by the Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra. The line-up will include Nigerian-born London-based grime MC Afrikan Boy, one of the UK’s premier Soul singer-songwriters Terri Walker, exciting new talent, Tanzanian-born Tiggs Da Author, as well saxophonist YolanDa Brown and many more (see full list below), plus some yet-to-be announced surprises. On the decks and hosting the afterparty will be London-based Japanese-born Afrobeat aficionado DJ Kochi Sakai.
Expect a spectacular musical extravaganza and celebration of the life and music of Fela Kuti.