Hi-Five: Red Hot + Riot Tribute to Fela Kuti

friday, december 1st was world aids day. in recognition of this fact, the brooklyn academy of music presented a red hot + riot tribute to the life and spirit of fela kuti – who should someday be named the orisha of afrobeat. well, in honor of blactivegan‘s birthday, i surprised him with tickets to the jam, which featured an all-star ensemble that included the incomparable me’shell n’degeocello, eclectic yerba buena, heart-touching amadou & mariam, grooving duo les nubians, spirited cheikh lo, agitational dead prez, ‘afrobeat architect’ tony allen, and absolutely afro-funky keziah jones.

i’m almost at a loss for words at describing how great the show was…i said almost (also check out the nytimes review)! so, here are my five things:

yerba buena

1) great idea to have a non-stop ensemble show, instead of multiple acts performing individually. what a message of musical and cultural unity to have yerba buena and me’shell n’degeocello as the band! les nubians (and the singer from yerba buena) held it down with the background vocals and appropriate boom boom shaking requisite for any afrobeat concert.

2) i really really wanted to see me’shell shine, but after a while i forgot she was there and just settled into the group experience…which i feel all the better for because it allowed people like amadou & mariam, cheikh lo, and keziah jones to get a little more shine. i’d never heard of cheikh lo and keziah jones, but, i was so deeply appreciative of the energy and creativity they brought to their performances that i’m looking to add their music to my collection. if i remember correclty, keziah jones provided the vocals for “colonomentality” and “water no get enemy.”

cheikh lo

les nubians

3) the les nubians sisters are so fly. this was the second time i’ve seen them live…and the unabashed level of intimacy and humanness they bring to a show really makes me feel like i’m in the presence of performers who really and truly are artists. (did that make sense?)

keziah jones

4) there weren’t many pauses during the show, short of two which were very momentous to me. the first being when cheikh lo arrived on the stage. unlike when the other artists entered the stage, he paused to go to hug and cheek-cheek kiss me’shell and les nubians. it was so endearing…one of the nubians grabbed a mic and started commenting on how that week of rehearsing and performing was so emotional for all of the performers and created a strong bond of love between them all. if there were any objective way to test this as fact, it was in the music.

5) the only downside of the show for me was this relentless feeling of annoyance at having been born too late to experience an actual fela kuti afrobeat concert. perhaps it would have taken fela to be there for the stiffs in the audience to realize that afrobeat is for action – whether activism, dancing, or both – not sitting and tapping your feet.

‘teacher don’t teach me nonsense’


fela anikulapo kuti was the famed nigerian afrobeat pioneer and human rights activist-artist who passed into the ancestral realm from an aids-related illness in 1997. fela’s music is commonly described as a mixture heavily influenced by james brown’s funkiness, west african highlife, and jazz laden with messages of unity, revolution, and common sense. fela was born fela ransome kuti, but declared that “ransome” was a slave name, and changed it to anikulapo, which means “he who carries death in a pouch.”

learn more about fela.

UPDATE: Check out blactivegan’s review on the concert, the importance of fela, and AIDS activism!


~ by Anayah on December 5, 2006.

6 Responses to “Hi-Five: Red Hot + Riot Tribute to Fela Kuti”

  1. […] on <font color=”blue”> sat., dec 2nd, </f> nite*vision and i celebrated the my b’earth day at the sold out red hot + riot @ bam – the illest event featuring an allstar cast of diasporic & continental africans giving soulfull (and i mean soul-full) tribute to the life, music + spirit of olufela olusegun oludotun ransome-kuti -one of the many charitable collabos of the red hot organization’s efforts to build proactive awarness to the pervasive pandemic, AIDS. (check out nite*vision’s post hi five: tribute to fela for a breakdown of the musical experience). the thing was a surprise, but then strange; why was the red hot + riot poppin’ off in bam, of all places in nyc? what’s so special about this weeked? wasn’t tryna be ungrateful, but soon enough all things were revealed. the day before was world aids day and… […]

  2. Hey girl, let me first say that its always good being able to connect with you. The concert sounds like it was truely spiritual expereience I only wish that I could have been there. Haven’t heard very much from many of the artists that you spoke about and its good to know that they’re still doing what they’ve always done best putting good important music out there for the masses. I look forward to reading more of your blogs keep me abreast of what’s going on in the NYC. Your girl,

  3. hey shanell! thanks so much for stopping by AND commenting…it means a lot to me that i can use this blog as a way to keep in contact with people whose company i enjoy but don’t get enough of! hope the family is well and that you drop by again soon!

  4. i just listened to this interview with francis kertekian, fela’s manager, explaining fela’s motivations behind marrying so many women. he stated that fela did it to protect them. interesting, since media since many media takes chock it up to him just being a social/sexual deviant. check it out the interview here: mondomix interview

  5. […] have linked up! blactivegan’s been on my blogroll and on my radar for a minute (see red hot post & mlk reference). his blog is a refreshing narrative exploration of physical activity, healthy […]

  6. Completely out of time…just to say that the gig was great!!

    How about John Medeski?

    Isn’t there no footage of the BAM show?



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