“Afrobeat will always be the music for every generation forever. Miles Davis said it would be the music of the future, and he was right. Afrobeat is a genre like Reggae, or Funk, or Jazz. Afrobeat will always be here.”
– Femi Kuti
Suffering in the Streets of Lagos, Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston and Philadelphia
There is suffering
In The Street
Our leaders say
Let it be
We the people
For this suffering
There is no need
North Philly’s Own Jaguar Wright Featured on Femi Kuti’s “There is Suffering”
When people in NP realized that their own home girl, Jaguar Wright, was featured on an album by Femi Kuti, they danced in the street, sang songs for their mothers and fathers, and played Horace Silver and Nina Simone. Yet far too few in Philadelphia or Lagos knew that it was the vocalist extraordinaire and stylist, Jaguar Wright, who is the one often identified as the ‘female vocalist’ on Femi’s classic Afrobeat street anthem, “Fight To Win.”
Femi Kuti has been fighting to win since his birth in London more than five decades ago and has been waiting to fight against downpression, oppression, and abuse of human rights and life. He is one of the leading artists in Popular Music and Afrobeat. Those who admire his brilliant career as a Jazz musician, World Beat postmodernist, and Afrobeat star — in an ever expanding galaxy of Afrodiasporic Music — welcome his recording with WizKid, Jaguar, The Roots, Common, and so many more. With his newly signed Management deal with Chocolate City Records, just this past December, Femi Kuti has expanded his musical reach to music lovers far and wide. His embodiment of the essence of Afrobeat is captivating both long-time followers and youths who are just beginning to get exposed to the mesmerizing force in his voice, or the excellent and varied mixes of traditionally influenced and modern sounds.
The Chocolate City Conglomerate
Chocolate City Records is a subsidiary of Chocolate City Group — one of the most highly recognized entertainment companies in Africa – having championed the careers of celebrated Afrobeat(s) artists such as M.I Abaga, Ice Prince, and Jesse Jagz. Standing at a generational intersection, what Femi becomes is a linkage, or bridge between tradition and modernity, in an ever-evolving movement that has no boundaries whatsoever.
What makes this Global Afrobeat(s) Cultural Revolution such a celebrated phenomenon IS its lack of boundaries. The genre bending, the liberation – it’s potential and impact to Africa and the world is just like that of the Global Hip Hop Cultural Revolution, with the United States and the rest of the world. There’s a co-equality that exists between Afrobeat(s) and Hip Hop that is unlike anything we have seen before. They consist of always-evolving social meanings and dialogues, and cultural matrices that characterize and distinguish the genres.
Femi as nerve-center
Femi is moving on the edge of these so-called Afrodiasporic musical developments, and it’s important to be aware of his central role as a unifying figure. What is the basis for this claim? It’s his conviction and uncompromising dedication to Africa and Afromusic. Consider an excerpt from a conversation back in 2000, in which Femi states, “The most difficult thing for me to do as an African bandleader is to keep things together. Coming from Africa, when they see America they all want to drop. So it has taken me fourteen years to build a steady band. You wake up in the morning and half of your band is gone. It is difficult. I have to make sure to be sincere with everybody. Tell them everything you’re getting. Let them know what’s happening. Being honest with them is political as well as ethical. They have to understand what I’m fighting for if they want to be a part of it. You treat everybody like family. Treat them the way you would want to be treated.”
There is a tendency for music cultures that exchange and recombine with those in the United States to approach the States not as equals, but as second-class, or less exceptional. But what our eyes have been laying witness to recently are two cultures that are meeting in the middle to draw from the same pool of creativity, and take sips from the same fountain of value. Femi Kuti is an indispensable figure in the sustainability of this phenomenon.
This evening on 3025 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, at the World Café Live, Femi Kuti returns to the Stage to take by storm dignitaries from Nigeria, and his fans from Philadephia, New Jersey and Delaware. We look forward to capturing Femi and Afrobeat(s)’ long reigning and expanding success and enjoyment – Jaiye Jaiye!
Copyright James G. Spady and Akinyemi Bajulaiye 2015