Femi Kuti


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About

Femi Kuti was born Olufela Olufemi Anikulapo Kuti on June 12, 1962 in London.

He is the eldest son of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, and a grandchild of a political campaigner, women's rights activist and traditional aristocrat Funmilayo Ransome Kuti.

He grew up in Lagos, Nigeria,

Femi's ...

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Contact

Publicist
Jeff Greene
812-339-1195

Current News

  • 05/24/201607/30/2016
  • Floyd, VA

Pushing On: Femi Kuti Reimagines His Afrobeat Legacy on No Place for My Dream and on U.S. Summer Tour

Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat, adding his own vision and restoring his father’s legacy to its proper place.

Femi’s voice rings out triumphant on No Place for My Dream (released by Knitting Factory Records;...

Press

  • WNYC Soundcheck, Interview, 07/27/2016, Femi Kuti: Social Conscience with a Beat
  • Washington Post, Feature story, 07/31/2016, Femi Kuti’s energy is as tireless as his message during 9:30 Club concert Text
  • Boston Globe, Interview, 07/22/2016, Femi Kuti continues his restless pursuit of positive change
  • The Guardian, Feature story, 08/08/2016, Gateways – Tony Allen and Nigeria: From Afrobeat to Afrobeats
  • + Show More

News

07/30/2016, Floyd, VA, Blue Cow Pavilion, 6:15 PM
05/24/201607/30/2016, Pushing On: Femi Kuti Reimagines His Afrobeat Legacy on No Place for My Dream and on U.S. Summer Tour
Event
07/30/2016
Event
07/30/2016
Doors Open
9:00 AM
Concert Start Time
6:15 PM
Venue
Blue Cow Pavilion
Venue St. Address
894 Rock Castle Gorge, Floyd, VA
Venue City, State
Floyd, VA
Venue Zip
24091
Ticket Price(s)
$90.00 - $185.00
Ticket Phone
888-823-3787
Ticket URL
http://floydfest.com/
Event Notes
6:15 PM Set Time
Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat. MORE» More»

Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat, adding his own vision and restoring his father’s legacy to its proper place.

Femi’s voice rings out triumphant on No Place for My Dream (released by Knitting Factory Records; June 25, 2013). With astounding musicianship, well-honed grooves, and a sound he’s made his own, Femi has defied local authorities and the rigors of his own upbringing to break free musically and speak truth to power.

“I knew I never wanted to be just like my father,” exclaims Femi, “I was being groomed to be like my father, even in the way I dressed. That wasn’t what I wanted. I needed something more challenging. I wanted to break away.”

Femi has struck the perfect balance between respect for his father’s groundbreaking, genre-establishing musical achievements and political outspokenness, and an intense commitment to his own vision and work. Horns sparkle and growl with striking precision (“No Place for My Dream”). Sinuous keys and bright bursts of percussion (“Action Time”), shifting tempos and hard-hitting, complex rhythms weave together, a vivid counterpoint to Femi’s strong, soulful tenor voice (“Nothing to Show for It”).

This heat will be in full force as Femi and his band tour the U.S. and Canada this summer.

{full story below}

Want to find your own sound, really hear your own voice? Stop listening to music, Femi advises. “On this album, it all comes from me,” he remarks. “I read a book about Miles Davis, who had a policy of no listening to music, to find clarity. I wanted to try that for myself, if I could create something more meaningful, coming directly from me, I had a good idea for the sax, how the trumpet should sound. I really feel my own presence.”

This deep listening has helped Femi take a thoughtful step away from the long shadow of his father’s music. Fela trained Femi from his early teens, dictating his style and hoping the young man would take over the band one day. Femi learned much, and valued his father’s experience, but couldn’t satisfy his own artistic urges that way. Through intensive practice and lots of persistence and soul searching, Femi formed his own band and found a new way, one that kept alive much of what makes Afrobeat distinctive—interlocking rhythms, catchy call-and-response choruses, dense arrangements, hot-button lyrics—but that made room for new insights.

Though striking out on his own, Femi kept alive one of the hubs of Afrobeat, The Shrine, a club in Lagos where Fela, and now Femi, communicated with their audience and let the spirit of the crowd guide their compositions. While Fela was famous for a weekly Q&A session that helped him focus his message, Femi turns to The Shrine to test his compositions methodically.

“It’s all experimental in my head. You start imagining a house and you think the door should be here, but people will find it different way to come inside,” reflects Femi. “So, I take my compositions bit by bit to The Shrine. I like starting with a bass line. I’ll give it to the bassist, then sit watching the audience, as he plays for 30 minutes. Depending on the bass line, I can see if people like it or not. If they don’t, I can discard it or change it.” Though some demand more work, many of Femi’s songs—like “Carry On Pushing On”—are instant Shrine hits.

Popularity and public support have not come easily to Femi. It took years to get his first big Nigerian hit in the 1990s, even after the musician had been embraced abroad. Times have changed, however, and technology has helped Femi buck the obstacles and harassment of irritated local elites. With blistering criticism of government corruption, elite hypocrisy, and economic injustice (“Politics na Big Business,” “No Work, No Job, No Money”), Femi faced everything from being barred from the radio to police raids of The Shrine (which sparked an international outcry).

From satellite TV (Femi credits South African channels for his 90s breakthrough back home) to social media and the internet, the smear campaigns and airplay bans that once daunted Fela have had less impact on his son. “Thanks to Twitter, people don’t read the news from the state-run media,” he laughs. “Younger people are getting all their news from Facebook and Twitter. This new technology has favored me.”

After decades of winning an audience in Nigeria and around the world, after many years of combating the authorities who sought to shut down both Femi’s critiques and Fela’s legacy of protest, Femi has found himself in an enviable position. Thanks to the worldwide success of Fela! and an international network of advocates and fans, many former political persecutors have gone from making his life rough to asking for the musician’s blessing. Fela and Femi have come into their own.

“Things have changed much for the better in the last year,” Femi reflects. “I’m older, I’ve been nominated for a Grammy three times. Fela! has created so much international enlightenment on my father and me and the whole family. Now the government built a museum for my father and the town where he comes from is trying to build a museum. Governors and politicians are trying to be friendly. They are finally seeing this is not a family they can mess with anymore.”

Event
07/30/2016

07/29/2016, Washington, DC, 9:30 Club, 9:15 PM
05/24/201607/29/2016, Pushing On: Femi Kuti Reimagines His Afrobeat Legacy on No Place for My Dream and on U.S. Summer Tour
Event
07/29/2016
Event
07/29/2016
Doors Open
8:00 PM
Concert Start Time
9:15 PM
Venue
9:30 Club
Venue St. Address
815 V St NW, Washington, DC
Venue City, State
Washington, DC
Venue Zip
20001
Ticket Price(s)
$35.00
Ticket Phone
202-265-0930
Ticket URL
http://ticketf.ly/1pqYGqD
Event Notes
10:30 PM Set Time
Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat. MORE» More»

Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat, adding his own vision and restoring his father’s legacy to its proper place.

Femi’s voice rings out triumphant on No Place for My Dream (released by Knitting Factory Records; June 25, 2013). With astounding musicianship, well-honed grooves, and a sound he’s made his own, Femi has defied local authorities and the rigors of his own upbringing to break free musically and speak truth to power.

“I knew I never wanted to be just like my father,” exclaims Femi, “I was being groomed to be like my father, even in the way I dressed. That wasn’t what I wanted. I needed something more challenging. I wanted to break away.”

Femi has struck the perfect balance between respect for his father’s groundbreaking, genre-establishing musical achievements and political outspokenness, and an intense commitment to his own vision and work. Horns sparkle and growl with striking precision (“No Place for My Dream”). Sinuous keys and bright bursts of percussion (“Action Time”), shifting tempos and hard-hitting, complex rhythms weave together, a vivid counterpoint to Femi’s strong, soulful tenor voice (“Nothing to Show for It”).

This heat will be in full force as Femi and his band tour the U.S. and Canada this summer.

{full story below}

Want to find your own sound, really hear your own voice? Stop listening to music, Femi advises. “On this album, it all comes from me,” he remarks. “I read a book about Miles Davis, who had a policy of no listening to music, to find clarity. I wanted to try that for myself, if I could create something more meaningful, coming directly from me, I had a good idea for the sax, how the trumpet should sound. I really feel my own presence.”

This deep listening has helped Femi take a thoughtful step away from the long shadow of his father’s music. Fela trained Femi from his early teens, dictating his style and hoping the young man would take over the band one day. Femi learned much, and valued his father’s experience, but couldn’t satisfy his own artistic urges that way. Through intensive practice and lots of persistence and soul searching, Femi formed his own band and found a new way, one that kept alive much of what makes Afrobeat distinctive—interlocking rhythms, catchy call-and-response choruses, dense arrangements, hot-button lyrics—but that made room for new insights.

Though striking out on his own, Femi kept alive one of the hubs of Afrobeat, The Shrine, a club in Lagos where Fela, and now Femi, communicated with their audience and let the spirit of the crowd guide their compositions. While Fela was famous for a weekly Q&A session that helped him focus his message, Femi turns to The Shrine to test his compositions methodically.

“It’s all experimental in my head. You start imagining a house and you think the door should be here, but people will find it different way to come inside,” reflects Femi. “So, I take my compositions bit by bit to The Shrine. I like starting with a bass line. I’ll give it to the bassist, then sit watching the audience, as he plays for 30 minutes. Depending on the bass line, I can see if people like it or not. If they don’t, I can discard it or change it.” Though some demand more work, many of Femi’s songs—like “Carry On Pushing On”—are instant Shrine hits.

Popularity and public support have not come easily to Femi. It took years to get his first big Nigerian hit in the 1990s, even after the musician had been embraced abroad. Times have changed, however, and technology has helped Femi buck the obstacles and harassment of irritated local elites. With blistering criticism of government corruption, elite hypocrisy, and economic injustice (“Politics na Big Business,” “No Work, No Job, No Money”), Femi faced everything from being barred from the radio to police raids of The Shrine (which sparked an international outcry).

From satellite TV (Femi credits South African channels for his 90s breakthrough back home) to social media and the internet, the smear campaigns and airplay bans that once daunted Fela have had less impact on his son. “Thanks to Twitter, people don’t read the news from the state-run media,” he laughs. “Younger people are getting all their news from Facebook and Twitter. This new technology has favored me.”

After decades of winning an audience in Nigeria and around the world, after many years of combating the authorities who sought to shut down both Femi’s critiques and Fela’s legacy of protest, Femi has found himself in an enviable position. Thanks to the worldwide success of Fela! and an international network of advocates and fans, many former political persecutors have gone from making his life rough to asking for the musician’s blessing. Fela and Femi have come into their own.

“Things have changed much for the better in the last year,” Femi reflects. “I’m older, I’ve been nominated for a Grammy three times. Fela! has created so much international enlightenment on my father and me and the whole family. Now the government built a museum for my father and the town where he comes from is trying to build a museum. Governors and politicians are trying to be friendly. They are finally seeing this is not a family they can mess with anymore.”

Event
07/29/2016

07/28/2016, Pittsburgh, PA, Altar, 7:00 PM
05/24/201607/28/2016, Pushing On: Femi Kuti Reimagines His Afrobeat Legacy on No Place for My Dream and on U.S. Summer Tour
Event
07/28/2016
Event
07/28/2016
Venue
Altar
Doors Open
6:00 PM
Concert Start Time
7:00 PM
Venue St. Address
1620 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
Venue City, State
Pittsburgh, PA
Venue Zip
15222
Ticket Price(s)
$23.00 - $25.00
Ticket Phone
412-206-9719
Ticket URL
http://ticketf.ly/1Q3fb1E
Event Notes
8:00 PM Set Time
Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat. MORE» More»

Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat, adding his own vision and restoring his father’s legacy to its proper place.

Femi’s voice rings out triumphant on No Place for My Dream (released by Knitting Factory Records; June 25, 2013). With astounding musicianship, well-honed grooves, and a sound he’s made his own, Femi has defied local authorities and the rigors of his own upbringing to break free musically and speak truth to power.

“I knew I never wanted to be just like my father,” exclaims Femi, “I was being groomed to be like my father, even in the way I dressed. That wasn’t what I wanted. I needed something more challenging. I wanted to break away.”

Femi has struck the perfect balance between respect for his father’s groundbreaking, genre-establishing musical achievements and political outspokenness, and an intense commitment to his own vision and work. Horns sparkle and growl with striking precision (“No Place for My Dream”). Sinuous keys and bright bursts of percussion (“Action Time”), shifting tempos and hard-hitting, complex rhythms weave together, a vivid counterpoint to Femi’s strong, soulful tenor voice (“Nothing to Show for It”).

This heat will be in full force as Femi and his band tour the U.S. and Canada this summer.

{full story below}

Want to find your own sound, really hear your own voice? Stop listening to music, Femi advises. “On this album, it all comes from me,” he remarks. “I read a book about Miles Davis, who had a policy of no listening to music, to find clarity. I wanted to try that for myself, if I could create something more meaningful, coming directly from me, I had a good idea for the sax, how the trumpet should sound. I really feel my own presence.”

This deep listening has helped Femi take a thoughtful step away from the long shadow of his father’s music. Fela trained Femi from his early teens, dictating his style and hoping the young man would take over the band one day. Femi learned much, and valued his father’s experience, but couldn’t satisfy his own artistic urges that way. Through intensive practice and lots of persistence and soul searching, Femi formed his own band and found a new way, one that kept alive much of what makes Afrobeat distinctive—interlocking rhythms, catchy call-and-response choruses, dense arrangements, hot-button lyrics—but that made room for new insights.

Though striking out on his own, Femi kept alive one of the hubs of Afrobeat, The Shrine, a club in Lagos where Fela, and now Femi, communicated with their audience and let the spirit of the crowd guide their compositions. While Fela was famous for a weekly Q&A session that helped him focus his message, Femi turns to The Shrine to test his compositions methodically.

“It’s all experimental in my head. You start imagining a house and you think the door should be here, but people will find it different way to come inside,” reflects Femi. “So, I take my compositions bit by bit to The Shrine. I like starting with a bass line. I’ll give it to the bassist, then sit watching the audience, as he plays for 30 minutes. Depending on the bass line, I can see if people like it or not. If they don’t, I can discard it or change it.” Though some demand more work, many of Femi’s songs—like “Carry On Pushing On”—are instant Shrine hits.

Popularity and public support have not come easily to Femi. It took years to get his first big Nigerian hit in the 1990s, even after the musician had been embraced abroad. Times have changed, however, and technology has helped Femi buck the obstacles and harassment of irritated local elites. With blistering criticism of government corruption, elite hypocrisy, and economic injustice (“Politics na Big Business,” “No Work, No Job, No Money”), Femi faced everything from being barred from the radio to police raids of The Shrine (which sparked an international outcry).

From satellite TV (Femi credits South African channels for his 90s breakthrough back home) to social media and the internet, the smear campaigns and airplay bans that once daunted Fela have had less impact on his son. “Thanks to Twitter, people don’t read the news from the state-run media,” he laughs. “Younger people are getting all their news from Facebook and Twitter. This new technology has favored me.”

After decades of winning an audience in Nigeria and around the world, after many years of combating the authorities who sought to shut down both Femi’s critiques and Fela’s legacy of protest, Femi has found himself in an enviable position. Thanks to the worldwide success of Fela! and an international network of advocates and fans, many former political persecutors have gone from making his life rough to asking for the musician’s blessing. Fela and Femi have come into their own.

“Things have changed much for the better in the last year,” Femi reflects. “I’m older, I’ve been nominated for a Grammy three times. Fela! has created so much international enlightenment on my father and me and the whole family. Now the government built a museum for my father and the town where he comes from is trying to build a museum. Governors and politicians are trying to be friendly. They are finally seeing this is not a family they can mess with anymore.”

Event
07/28/2016

07/27/2016, Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn Bowl, 8:15 PM
05/24/201607/27/2016, Pushing On: Femi Kuti Reimagines His Afrobeat Legacy on No Place for My Dream and on U.S. Summer Tour
Event
07/27/2016
Event
07/27/2016
Doors Open
6:00 PM
Concert Start Time
8:15 PM
Venue
Brooklyn Bowl
Venue St. Address
61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Venue City, State
Brooklyn, NY
Venue Zip
11211
Ticket Price(s)
$25.00
Ticket Phone
718-963-3369
Ticket URL
http://ticketf.ly/22pOrkR
Event Notes
9:30 PM Set Time, 21+
Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat. MORE» More»

Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat, adding his own vision and restoring his father’s legacy to its proper place.

Femi’s voice rings out triumphant on No Place for My Dream (released by Knitting Factory Records; June 25, 2013). With astounding musicianship, well-honed grooves, and a sound he’s made his own, Femi has defied local authorities and the rigors of his own upbringing to break free musically and speak truth to power.

“I knew I never wanted to be just like my father,” exclaims Femi, “I was being groomed to be like my father, even in the way I dressed. That wasn’t what I wanted. I needed something more challenging. I wanted to break away.”

Femi has struck the perfect balance between respect for his father’s groundbreaking, genre-establishing musical achievements and political outspokenness, and an intense commitment to his own vision and work. Horns sparkle and growl with striking precision (“No Place for My Dream”). Sinuous keys and bright bursts of percussion (“Action Time”), shifting tempos and hard-hitting, complex rhythms weave together, a vivid counterpoint to Femi’s strong, soulful tenor voice (“Nothing to Show for It”).

This heat will be in full force as Femi and his band tour the U.S. and Canada this summer.

{full story below}

Want to find your own sound, really hear your own voice? Stop listening to music, Femi advises. “On this album, it all comes from me,” he remarks. “I read a book about Miles Davis, who had a policy of no listening to music, to find clarity. I wanted to try that for myself, if I could create something more meaningful, coming directly from me, I had a good idea for the sax, how the trumpet should sound. I really feel my own presence.”

This deep listening has helped Femi take a thoughtful step away from the long shadow of his father’s music. Fela trained Femi from his early teens, dictating his style and hoping the young man would take over the band one day. Femi learned much, and valued his father’s experience, but couldn’t satisfy his own artistic urges that way. Through intensive practice and lots of persistence and soul searching, Femi formed his own band and found a new way, one that kept alive much of what makes Afrobeat distinctive—interlocking rhythms, catchy call-and-response choruses, dense arrangements, hot-button lyrics—but that made room for new insights.

Though striking out on his own, Femi kept alive one of the hubs of Afrobeat, The Shrine, a club in Lagos where Fela, and now Femi, communicated with their audience and let the spirit of the crowd guide their compositions. While Fela was famous for a weekly Q&A session that helped him focus his message, Femi turns to The Shrine to test his compositions methodically.

“It’s all experimental in my head. You start imagining a house and you think the door should be here, but people will find it different way to come inside,” reflects Femi. “So, I take my compositions bit by bit to The Shrine. I like starting with a bass line. I’ll give it to the bassist, then sit watching the audience, as he plays for 30 minutes. Depending on the bass line, I can see if people like it or not. If they don’t, I can discard it or change it.” Though some demand more work, many of Femi’s songs—like “Carry On Pushing On”—are instant Shrine hits.

Popularity and public support have not come easily to Femi. It took years to get his first big Nigerian hit in the 1990s, even after the musician had been embraced abroad. Times have changed, however, and technology has helped Femi buck the obstacles and harassment of irritated local elites. With blistering criticism of government corruption, elite hypocrisy, and economic injustice (“Politics na Big Business,” “No Work, No Job, No Money”), Femi faced everything from being barred from the radio to police raids of The Shrine (which sparked an international outcry).

From satellite TV (Femi credits South African channels for his 90s breakthrough back home) to social media and the internet, the smear campaigns and airplay bans that once daunted Fela have had less impact on his son. “Thanks to Twitter, people don’t read the news from the state-run media,” he laughs. “Younger people are getting all their news from Facebook and Twitter. This new technology has favored me.”

After decades of winning an audience in Nigeria and around the world, after many years of combating the authorities who sought to shut down both Femi’s critiques and Fela’s legacy of protest, Femi has found himself in an enviable position. Thanks to the worldwide success of Fela! and an international network of advocates and fans, many former political persecutors have gone from making his life rough to asking for the musician’s blessing. Fela and Femi have come into their own.

“Things have changed much for the better in the last year,” Femi reflects. “I’m older, I’ve been nominated for a Grammy three times. Fela! has created so much international enlightenment on my father and me and the whole family. Now the government built a museum for my father and the town where he comes from is trying to build a museum. Governors and politicians are trying to be friendly. They are finally seeing this is not a family they can mess with anymore.”

Event
07/27/2016

07/26/2016, Allston, MA, Brighton Music Hall, 7:00 PM
05/24/201607/26/2016, Pushing On: Femi Kuti Reimagines His Afrobeat Legacy on No Place for My Dream and on U.S. Summer Tour
Event
07/26/2016
Event
07/26/2016
Doors Open
7:00 PM
Concert Start Time
7:00 PM
Venue
Brighton Music Hall
Venue St. Address
158 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA
Venue City, State
Allston, MA
Venue Zip
02134
Ticket Price(s)
$22.00 - $25.00
Ticket Phone
617-779-0140
Ticket URL
http://crossroadspresents.com/brighton-music-hall
Event Notes
9:15 PM Set Time, 18+
Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat. MORE» More»

Once they bombed them; now they are building museums to honor them. Tapped as Afrobeat founding father Fela Kuti’s chosen successor, Femi Kuti has fought for his own voice and for his family’s freedom. On a tide of growing international recognition, Femi has broken the chains that bound Afrobeat, adding his own vision and restoring his father’s legacy to its proper place.

Femi’s voice rings out triumphant on No Place for My Dream (released by Knitting Factory Records; June 25, 2013). With astounding musicianship, well-honed grooves, and a sound he’s made his own, Femi has defied local authorities and the rigors of his own upbringing to break free musically and speak truth to power.

“I knew I never wanted to be just like my father,” exclaims Femi, “I was being groomed to be like my father, even in the way I dressed. That wasn’t what I wanted. I needed something more challenging. I wanted to break away.”

Femi has struck the perfect balance between respect for his father’s groundbreaking, genre-establishing musical achievements and political outspokenness, and an intense commitment to his own vision and work. Horns sparkle and growl with striking precision (“No Place for My Dream”). Sinuous keys and bright bursts of percussion (“Action Time”), shifting tempos and hard-hitting, complex rhythms weave together, a vivid counterpoint to Femi’s strong, soulful tenor voice (“Nothing to Show for It”).

This heat will be in full force as Femi and his band tour the U.S. and Canada this summer.

{full story below}

Want to find your own sound, really hear your own voice? Stop listening to music, Femi advises. “On this album, it all comes from me,” he remarks. “I read a book about Miles Davis, who had a policy of no listening to music, to find clarity. I wanted to try that for myself, if I could create something more meaningful, coming directly from me, I had a good idea for the sax, how the trumpet should sound. I really feel my own presence.”

This deep listening has helped Femi take a thoughtful step away from the long shadow of his father’s music. Fela trained Femi from his early teens, dictating his style and hoping the young man would take over the band one day. Femi learned much, and valued his father’s experience, but couldn’t satisfy his own artistic urges that way. Through intensive practice and lots of persistence and soul searching, Femi formed his own band and found a new way, one that kept alive much of what makes Afrobeat distinctive—interlocking rhythms, catchy call-and-response choruses, dense arrangements, hot-button lyrics—but that made room for new insights.

Though striking out on his own, Femi kept alive one of the hubs of Afrobeat, The Shrine, a club in Lagos where Fela, and now Femi, communicated with their audience and let the spirit of the crowd guide their compositions. While Fela was famous for a weekly Q&A session that helped him focus his message, Femi turns to The Shrine to test his compositions methodically.

“It’s all experimental in my head. You start imagining a house and you think the door should be here, but people will find it different way to come inside,” reflects Femi. “So, I take my compositions bit by bit to The Shrine. I like starting with a bass line. I’ll give it to the bassist, then sit watching the audience, as he plays for 30 minutes. Depending on the bass line, I can see if people like it or not. If they don’t, I can discard it or change it.” Though some demand more work, many of Femi’s songs—like “Carry On Pushing On”—are instant Shrine hits.

Popularity and public support have not come easily to Femi. It took years to get his first big Nigerian hit in the 1990s, even after the musician had been embraced abroad. Times have changed, however, and technology has helped Femi buck the obstacles and harassment of irritated local elites. With blistering criticism of government corruption, elite hypocrisy, and economic injustice (“Politics na Big Business,” “No Work, No Job, No Money”), Femi faced everything from being barred from the radio to police raids of The Shrine (which sparked an international outcry).

From satellite TV (Femi credits South African channels for his 90s breakthrough back home) to social media and the internet, the smear campaigns and airplay bans that once daunted Fela have had less impact on his son. “Thanks to Twitter, people don’t read the news from the state-run media,” he laughs. “Younger people are getting all their news from Facebook and Twitter. This new technology has favored me.”

After decades of winning an audience in Nigeria and around the world, after many years of combating the authorities who sought to shut down both Femi’s critiques and Fela’s legacy of protest, Femi has found himself in an enviable position. Thanks to the worldwide success of Fela! and an international network of advocates and fans, many former political persecutors have gone from making his life rough to asking for the musician’s blessing. Fela and Femi have come into their own.

“Things have changed much for the better in the last year,” Femi reflects. “I’m older, I’ve been nominated for a Grammy three times. Fela! has created so much international enlightenment on my father and me and the whole family. Now the government built a museum for my father and the town where he comes from is trying to build a museum. Governors and politicians are trying to be friendly. They are finally seeing this is not a family they can mess with anymore.”

Event
07/26/2016