You know how every so often you discover something so amazing you can’t believe you hadn’t heard of it up until that point in your life? So it was for me with afrobeat, the infectious music invented by the great Fela Kuti in Nigeria in the early ’70’s. Funky rhythms, driving percussion, soaring horns and rebellious lyrics that stick it to the man. I feel like this is the music I’ve been searching for my entire life. My first thought when I heard a song by Femi Kuti (Fela’s son) was, “Why am I just hearing this for the first time in my late 30’s? Am I really that unhip?”
Anyone who knows me knows the answer to that question is, “Yes, you are definitely that unhip,” but that still doesn’t explain how I totally missed the boat on afrobeat. Fortunately, I’ve been doing a good job of making up for lost time. I got to see Femi Kuti in concert in Aspen, and when I went to New York last year, my wife and I went to see FELA! If you get the chance to see that play, I highly recommend it. Best music and dancing I’ve ever seen on Broadway. Not the sort of show my parents would be into, but that certainly doesn’t hurt its appeal.
Anyway, if you’re not familiar with afrobeat yet, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. In addition to Fela and Femi, some great African artists include Seun Kuti, Manu Dibango and Tony Allen. Stateside, check out Antibalas, the Budos Band, Nomo and the Motet, among others. Your mind and your rump will thank you.