Thursday, 14 November 2013

Afro-Beat Part 3

The Fela Bandwagon..(Conclusion):

Someone once asked the reason why afro-beat music has become suddenly more popular, readily accepted and is growing stronger with time. I don't know for sure, but the answer could be the raw energy from the music. 

Everyone has their own way of rationalising the sound. I loved the rhythm section when Tony Allen was drummer and leader of the backing band, Africa 70. He held sway over the percussive elements, led by example and kept the maverick players in check without stunting their natural growth as instrumentalists and musicians. The jazzy horn lines and witty vocals were for me, an added bonus.

Fela himself was a first class musician who composed, arranged and oversaw all the material elements in the music. The man was a multi-instrumentalist. On stage, he played the keyboards, saxophone, sang and conducted the group's repertoire. This is one of the reason I disagree with the many people that like to describe him as Africa's James Brown, he was more than that. JB had a conductor, didn't play any instruments on stage and entertained only through his singing and dancing.

Fela performing Afro-beat live

But afro-beat as a genre, has to evolve like other genres. If it doesn't, it could end up like the old soldiers, who never die but just fade away. 

Brian Eno talks about Afro-beat

Music producer, Brian Eno describes the Nigeria 70 (later Africa 70) sound as music from the future. High praise indeed and a validation for afro-beat as a sound. To keep to this vision, the afro-beat genre needs more young people to get involved, bring their own energy and creativity into the genre so it may keep evolving, stay fresh and entertaining.

To those who are active within the genre today, I say thank you very much for your efforts in promoting a revolutionary African sound. Keep the faith, but watch out for those who jump on the bandwagon because of Fela's fame and notoriety. Work with songwriters that think outside the box and embrace all comers. After all, the music is the boss!

Thank you!


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