Femi Kuti and the Rocking of D.C.

by Tokunbo Awoshakin

Penultimate Weekend, as part of his second U.S. CD release tour, Afro-beat crown prince, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti and his 14-member band gave Washington D.C. a much needed diversion from the Anthrax scare with two hours of African music and scathing non-stop social commentary.

The venue was Club 9.30 in Downtown D.C. and the place was chock full and gasping for breath. The visit of the Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo that same weekend to the White House in a strange way, gave the show some kind of publicity.

Those that had seen President Obasanjo on the Cable News Network CNN talk about how Nigeria will remain steadfast to the American war against terrorism must have been caught on the wrong feet as Femi Kuti repeatedly attacked the Nigerian government

In a performance reminiscent of the legendary late Afro-beat originator, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Femi, the son and his band of frenetic horn players, voluptuous dancers and exuberant percussionists, successfully turned the venue into a party cum political engagement.

Fusing jazz, funk and rhythm with African blues, the 39years old Femi kuti, in the fashion of his late fathers’s showmanship, was so outspoken that while some who did not know his pedigree wondered, others simply smiled at the coming of age of the man called Nigeria’s James Brown.

With songs like “sorry Sorry” and “Traitors of Africa” Femi Kuti not only attacked the Nigerian Government and warned of a fast approaching civil war, he also lambasted western democracies for turning a blind eye on corruption in African nations.

Numbers like “Blackman Show Yourself” and “Africa Will Be free/Africa Will Unite” played well to the African Americans at the Club. Not only did these songs invoke their Pan-African sentiments, they also reek of musical competence.

Swinging the crowd from political messages to Pan-African tunes, the fiery afro-beat polemicist still had time to sing songs with social messages like “Stop AIDs” and “Walk on the right Side”.

Femi Kuti’s dancers were a sight to behold. Femi’s own wife was among them. So was Yeni, another of Fela’s children. Theirs wasn’t the nudity of exotic dancers in “Go Go Clubs”, no. It was the beauty and erotic seductiveness of nature’s dance moves.

Did the audience like it? They could not get enough. With a guest appearance by rapper, Mos Def, the package was tight. The party was a hit and everyone was getting his/her groove on. The star of the night was, however, not done until he had given a superb rendition of two of his late father’s Classics namely “Water No get Enemy” and “Zombie”

As those that were familiar with these songs and those hearing them for the first time got caught up in the frenzy and powerful musical tribute to his father, Femi declared, “On the surface, I am dancing, we are all dancing, but internally I am crying everyday”.

For those at the Washington D.C. night Club that Sunday night, that statement hinted at more than crying for the loss of the Afro-beat originator. It also implied the shedding of tears for African nations like Nigeria, Femi kuti’s homeland, where the military and civilians have only succeeded in driving the people crazy in the name of democracy.

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