Afro-beat became popular in Africa during the 70s, with the main driving force being the compelling Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. He was an extraordinary talent, a potent musical and political force. Fela coined the term Afro-beat after touring the US with his band Nigeria 70. He used his music as a platform to campaign against corruption in Nigerian politics, and paid a substantial price for his activism. His live performances often lasted all night, and most of his album tracks ran ten minutes and longer.
Fela Kuti died in 1997 – but he’s still making new fans all around the world. If you’ve never explored his music, start now.
40 years after it began, Afro-beat has a huge following all over the world and there are many bands playing the “real deal”. One of the best is Jungle By Night – nine young blokes from Amsterdam who discovered Afro-beat a couple of years back. They’ve built an impressive sound in a short time, and were hailed by former members of the Fela Kuti band who saw them play as the “future of Afro-beat”.
Next we hear Antibalas – and they’re the reason we’re talking about Afro-beat today – they’re playing tonight (Friday March 1 at the Tanks Arts Centre in Cairns. Antibalas is Spanish for “bullet-proof”. They hail from Brooklyn, where the band formed in 1998, modelling itself on the Fela Kuti band.
Fela Kuti Zombie – from the album Music Is the Weapon
Jungle By Night – The Past is History – from the album Hidden
Antibalas – Dirty Money – from the Womadelaide 2013 compilation CD
Tony Hillier is one of Australia’s leading music journalists and a musician of long standing here in far north Queensland. His informed and insightful coverage of music features in The Weekend Australian and Rhythms magazine http://rhythms.com.au/ .