Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Fela Kuti remembered...

Neil Spencer recalls Fela Kuti.
He was meant to be a doctor, an upstanding member of Nigeria's elite like his father, an Anglican pastor who had founded the Nigeria Union of Teachers, and his mother, an aristocrat, nationalist and fiery feminist who had won the Lenin peace prize. His two brothers were already committed to the medical profession to which he was likewise promised. At 20 he would study in England, where his first cousin, Wole Soyinka, was already making waves as a literary lion.

Instead, Fela Ransome-Kuti became infamous, an outlaw musician who declared himself president of his own "Kalakuta Republic", a sprawling compound in the suburbs of Lagos that housed his recording studio and offered sanctuary to the dispossessed. At his club, the Shrine, his band played until dawn while dozens of singers and dancers writhed and glittered amid drifts of igbo smoke. Here, Nigeria's corrupt dictators were denounced and ancient Yoruban deities honoured, all to a relentless backdrop of the "Afrobeat" that Fela had distilled from the musical collision of Africa and black America.
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Huun Huur Tu: Ancestors Call

Robin Denselow reviews Huun Huur Tu's Ancestors Call.
You wait for months for a new album of Tuvan throat singing, and then two come along at once. After Albert Kuvezin's entertaining experiments in mixing this extraordinary vocal technique with Japanese poetry and British musicianship, here's an exhilarating set from one of the finest bands working in this remote area of Asia, out on the Mongolian border. Huun Huur Tu are an all-singing four-piece who have learned the traditional skill of producing many notes at once, and are also multi-instrumentalists, mixing drums and percussion with flute, the igli fiddle or doshpuluur lute.
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Souad Massi: O Houria (Liberty)

Andy Gill reviews Souad Massi's Ô Houria (Liberty)
Eleven years as an expatriate Algerian have left their mark on Massi's music, in which the strains of Arabic and western influences are more tightly intertwined than for any comparable crossover artist.

That's most evident, on this follow-up to 2005's Mesk Elil, in the track "All Remains to Be Done", where the skirling textures of Mehdi Habbad's oud ride an urgent folk-rock groove, his virtuoso solo skimming the song's surface.
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Related Posts:
Souad Massi, Mesk Elil
Souad Massi: Ô Houria (Liberty)

Interview with Femi Kuti

Jane Cornwell interviews Fela Kuti's oldest son Femi Kuti.
He's been threatened with jail, even with death. They've tried censoring him, bribing him, incriminating him and closing him down. But still Femi Kuti won't shut up. "When violence and injustice touch you personally, you can't just walk away," says the 48-year-old musician and bandleader, eldest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti.

"Nigeria is in turmoil. There is corruption and poverty beyond your imagination. My music reminds people what is going on. My songs are part of the fight."

Fast, furious songs with titles such as Nobody Beg, Bad Government and Can't Buy Me feature on the Kuti scion's new album, Africa for Africa, a back-to-Afrobeat-basics affair he launched last month in Lagos as part of Felabration, a festival held annually in honour of his father. "Since the time of independence/ the suffer still dey increase," he sang in Nigeria's pidgin, a saxophone around his neck, his 14-piece Positive Force orchestra blasting out a trademark mix of jazz, funk and African rhythms.

The venue was the New Africa Shrine, an aircraft hangar-style space named after the nightclub founded by Fela in 1970, razed to the ground by armed police in 1977 and rebuilt by Femi and his sister Yeni in 2000. Here dancers gyrate in wooden cages above the dance floor. Walls are hung with portraits of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and the other black leaders who shaped the thoughts of Fela Anikulapo Kuti -- for many Africans, the greatest leader of them all. A sort of Graceland for Fela fans, the shrine remains a hothouse of dissent and a thorn in the side of the Nigerian authorities, who are celebrating the country's 50 years of independence from Britain.
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Related Posts:
Joe Tangari's review of Femi Kuti's The Best of Femi Kuti

Monday, November 08, 2010

Souad Massi: O Houria (Liberty)

Robin Denselow reviews Souad Massi's Ô Houria (Liberty)
When Souad Massi released Raoui, nine years ago, she sounded like a north African answer to Françoise Hardy, with her exquisite songs of lost love and longing for home. Now she seems to be treading water. The new album is varied but lightweight; her voice is as cool and breathy as ever, but not all the songs do her justice. She returns to her early style with the charming Samira Meskina and Nacera, but is hampered by predictable musical settings, while on Everything I Love it sounds as if she is aiming for the easy-listening market.
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