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Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti

A movement and genre created by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and singer Fela Kuti in the early 1970s. Musically, afrobeat is a blend of Jazz, Funk, Highlife and Yoruba percussion, although the term is often attributed quite liberally to any African music with funk influences. Typically, afrobeat is played by large ensembles, with Fela's bands occasionally including over a hundred members. An essential part of the original movement was also pan-African ideology and political radicalism. Since Fela's death the most notable artists have been his son Femi Kuti and the American Antibalas.

Notable Artists[]

  • Fela Kuti is the Elvis, Chuck Berry, Michael Jackson and Bob Marley of Afrobeat rolled into one. Early stuff as Koola Lobitos
  • Fela's sons Femi and Seun proudly carry the torch. Seun is more like his dad.
  • Tony Allen was in Fela's band for many years, but also had an accomplished solo career. When Cream broke up, Ginger Baker moved to Africa to learn to drum from Allen and played with him and Fela for about six years before moving back home. Some of Allen vs. Baker's drum battles are things of mythic proportion.

Babatunde Olatunji - Jin-Go-Lo-Ba

Babatunde Olatunji - Jin-Go-Lo-Ba

  • Babatunde Olatunji (you might recognize this if you are a fan of Santana since their cover version is famous). The album "Drums of Passion" from 1959 is simply mind blowing and hypnotic.
  • Sahara All Stars Jos - check out this track called "Enjoy Yourself", it's one of my favorites
  • Shina Peters (Afro-juju)
  • Chrissy Zebby Tembo and Ngozi Family - This is even better (far funkier) than the one linked above
  • William Onyeabor brought the keys/synths to the party
  • Hugh Masekela
  • Ebo Taylor really fucking makes me shake my ass like this
  • Papa Wemba
  • Antibalas (formerly known as Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra) - carrying the torch. These guys formed in NY, but they are so good that they were hired for the FELA musical on broadway. Pretty hardcore touring band, but they seem to be a lot more busy in the last couple years and don't do as many club gigs.
  • Bisso Na Bisso are not afrobeat, but they are bridging the gap between traditional afrobeat and modern hip hop. Like this

Essential Compilations[]

Reviews: BBC, Pitchfork. Listen on: Deezer | Rdio | Spotify
  • The Rough Guide to Afrobeat Revival These are the musical sons of Fela Kuti (and in the case of Seun Kuti, his literal son), artists who've taken up the call of Afro-beat since the passing of the genre's greatest inspiration. Some mimic his style closely, others take it to places Fela himself never got the chance to. Nearly all of them are from North America. Tony Allen is the undisputed star here, having drummed for Fela for many years, so it's appropriate that the set opens with his "Crazy Afrobeat," a slice of pure funk that locks into a groove and sticks with it. New York's Antibalas takes it from there, adding a Latin touch that keeps their ten-minute jam, with its finger-wagging lyrics, potent throughout. Seun Kuti, of all here, is the most reminiscent of Fela himself, working with Fela's group Egypt 80 and railing about injustice on the continent. Of the others, Kokolo brings a jazzy '70s soul vibe to their "Trouble Come, Trouble Go." (A bonus disc that comes with the package is devoted entirely to this New York group.) And the 13-member Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble offers the compilation's longest track with the 13-and-a-half-minute "Fela Dey," which delights in taking its time to honor the master and give its various components room to stretch and explore where Afro-beat has been and is headed. Listen on: Deezer | Rdio | Spotify

Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family -- My Ancestors

Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family -- My Ancestors

  • Love, Peace & Poetry vol. 8 is a bit more of a psychedelic collection than an afrobeat one, but it definitely kind of bridges the gap between the two scenes. Contains a lot of S. African as well Nigerian, Ghanaian, etc. musicians. And even some white folks make it on this one. Here is a great track from this one, called "My Ancestors" by Chrissy Zebby Tembo and Ngozi family for an example of the hybridization of the two styles.




Essential Chart[]


Essential Afrobeat