Since 1998, Yeni Kuti, Fela’s daughter has championed his immortalization and celebration annually via the globally recognized event, Felabration.
There has been numerous highs at the celebrations, with each year bringing on a little something extra to regal guests, and make audiences bask in the warm glow that Afrobeat offers and projects.
This year that little something extra happened on the Island, as Femi Kuti was invited to bring the magic of the season across the Third Mainland Bridge, from the Lagos mainland, and on to the Island. Felabration, the weekly event holds at the New Afrika Shrine, Ikeja, at the heart of the mainland. To experience the concert, the Islanders previously will have to go through the ardous and lengthy drive to the mainland. But this year was different.
Femi Kuti was brought on by event and leisure company, El’ Carnaval, which is run by Matthew Ohio, the popular Lagos promoter and entertainment mogul.
The event which held at the classy HardRock Café, in Victoria Island, attracted a motley audience drawn from the vibrant expatriate community seeking to have a live experience of Afrobeat. The Nigerians were there too in their numbers, ready for the son of the great Abami Eda.
Femi keeps his 90 minute show under tight control, working his band (Positive Force) to perfection, with each song leading to the rest and alternating the sound textures to become one with the leader. He gyrates through his extensive catalogue of internationally recognized hits, singing protest songs, which were conscious, soul-rending, and immersive. All through, his impeccable artistry was on display, as he switched between the piano and three horns (Trumpet, Saxophone, and Clarinet), and exhibited his full range of talents.
“You people came late to the show,” He chided the crowd, mid-way through his performance. The show was originally slated for 6pm. But it wasn’t until well past 7pm did people start trickling into the event venue. Femi, using his sharp humor scolded the crowd, and shared a story of Fela’s legendary knack for lateness, and his disregard for time. Fela once missed an Air Italia flight, thereby forfeiting 73 tickets for him and his band.
The show was ended with the hit song ‘Beng Beng Beng’, other members of Fela’s household were also present. Seun Kuti, and Yeni Kuti were brought onstage. “You people are here,” Femi asked, “Who will take of the shrine for me oh?”
Seun Kuti and Yeni joined the banter on stage, before the brothers wrapped up with a mini-performance. Femi Kuti, the leader of the pack had hugs for the family, and bows for the crowd. For one evening, Felabration has been brought to the Island, spreading the love, the message of truth and the spirit of movement founded by the great Fela Kuti. Such was the significance of the occasion, and although Femi was at the center of it, even he understands that this is bigger than him. It is from Africa to the world.