Sunday, February 14, 2010

Femi Kuti Celebrates Grammy Nomination in Lagos

Sax and satire

By Akintayo ABodunrin
Nigeria Next
February 13, 2010 05:46PM

An enjoyable performance was what Femi Kuti treated fans to at the show to celebrate his Grammy nomination held at Tribeca, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Friday, February 5.

The show titled ‘Let's Celebrate with Femi Kuti' lived up to the hype by promoters who had played up the fact that it was the first solo performance by the Afrobeat heir outside the New Afrika Shrine in four years.

In the classic Afrobeat tradition pioneered by his legendary father, Femi's concert was a mixture of music and ‘yabis' (scathing social commentary). Nothing escaped the irreverent attention of the singer and instrumentalist who never mentioned the fact that he lost the Grammy prize to Bela Fleck at the Award ceremony held at Staples Centre, Los Angeles, on January 31. A good time was what the fun seekers comprising Nigerians and foreigners came for, and that exactly was what Femi gave them in about two hours.

Upcoming acts including guitarists Pure and Simple; keytarist Jaiye, singer Ibiyemi and guitarist Tosin were the opening acts on the night. Pure and Simple's self composed ‘Just Like That' was a moving jazz number while self-styled Nigeria's number one keytarist, Jaiye, did songs including Ras Kimono's ‘Rhumba Style' and Danny Wilson's ‘Mr. Ragamuffin.' He also did Funmi Adams ‘Nigeria' and Snoop Dog's ‘Sensual Seduction' on his unique keyboard worn around the neck and shoulders like a guitar.

Ibiyemi showed off her vocal prowess on the love song, ‘Don't Leave Me.' The high point of their performance was the free styling session where they all jammed together on stage.

Femi's Positive Force Band opened with some of Fela's evergreen songs including ‘One Day' and ‘Army Arrangement' before moving to songs by the headliner. They served the audience ‘Traitors of Africa' and ‘What Will Tomorrow Bring' until around 12.30am when their leader came on stage, to applause from the audience.

Political songs

A true son of his father, Femi started with the political song, ‘Truth Don Die.' He displayed his skills on the keyboard and saxophone doing the number. Though visibly aging, the musician showed he has powerful lungs by the way he sustained his breath blowing the sax. "Ararara," he called out to the audience. "Arororo," regular visitors to the Afrika Shrine who knew the correct response to Femi's unique mode of acknowledgement answered. "It's good to be here with you tonight on the Island all the way from Agidingbin, Ikeja," he began.

The artist, though, couldn't resist throwing a barb at the audience he perceived as elitist. "Some of you are afraid and so won't come to the Shrine to see what we are doing" he noted in jest. He touched on the lack of security in Nigeria, mentioning some of the dangers to peoples' lives - including generator fumes and poor infrastructure. The leadership crisis and prevalent dishonesty among technicians didn't escape his attention. "We have brains gan o (We are very brilliant) because leaders of this country have made us crooked," he added for emphasis.

Femi and his three female dancers kept up the energetic display with his popular number, ‘Wonder Wonder' and the risqué ‘Bang Bang Bang.' He couldn't resist being salacious as he slowed down the tempo to offer some advice. "I got my degree in 1994 when I got a professorship in Sexology. If you don't know how to do it, the girl will be controlling you. You need to know what to do when you are with a woman o," he joked.

He went political again with ‘Sotan' (2004) condemning the state of affairs in the country. "Obasanjo ‘spoil' Nigeria. My father told us about Obasanjo but we went in the rain to vote him in," he began his critique of the former president,. "He told us he didn't know Yar ‘Adua was ill, it was a ploy to remain in power," said Femi in reference to Obasanjo's widely reported denial of Umaru Yar'Adua's ill health. He also decried the impoverishment of Nigerians and railed against Federal legislators. "Instead of fighting for us, they were fighting for allowance. They wanted to do gain-gain (enjoying benefits)."

Caustic tongue

Nobody escaped the musician's tongue. He had something for his sister, Yeni, who brought him a list of artists in the house. "This your isepe (unclear) writing gan," he said obviously because he couldn't see the writing well. Femi however commended D'Banj, Ikechukwu, Asa and others at the show for always obliging him and his siblings during the annual ‘Felabration' in honour of their father. Rumours of lingering rivalry between Femi and his younger brother, Seun, were doused somewhat, Seun was in attendance.

"Your N10, 000 finished 30 minutes ago," began Femi around 2am as he prepared to leave the stage. "The gate fee at the Shrine is N500. Come to New Afrika Shrine, come and see what is happening." He, however, bowed to popular wish and returned to the stage for some minutes more before his final exit.

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