"Turn off your phones!" announces Afrobeat artist Femi Kuti after sound checking with his 11 piece band. This is right after he made rounds in The Current studios taking iPad photos of each individual Positive Force musician: 3 brass instrumentalists, 3 singers, 2 drummers, a pianist, bassist, and guitarist.
What does Kuti loves most about touring in America? The roads. Kuti, who recently turned 51, is on tour now in support of his album that dropped just this week, No Place for My Dream. He enjoys traveling across the country on the smooth, paved highways to play in different varieties of venues. On June 26 he and the Positive Force played The Cedar in Minneapolis, and June 28 they make a stop at Milwaukee's Summerfest. He's happy to play at the annual music festival--he loves that music has become an essential part of American culture.
Femi's has ties to other parts of American culture, too. In 2008, a Broadway musical based on his father Fela Kuti, an Afrobeat legend, began production. Fela! is based on the late Kuti's music and is performed by Brooklyn's Antibalas, a group heavily influenced by Afrobeat. When Mark Wheat asked his opinion of American bands that channel the sounds of Africa, the Nigerian-born Femi undoubtedly embraced it: "We need to appreciate and understand where Africa is coming from."
Songs performed: "Day By Day", "Africa for Africa", and "No Place".
- Antibalas: Live from SXSW Nigerian musician Fela Kuti invented Afro-beat, the blend of jazz, funk and traditional African music that was the introduction to "world" music for many Americans. Antibalas, a Brooklyn-based collective of about 17 musicians, carry on Fela's legacy of making danceable, politically aware songs.
- Tony Allen performs in The Current studio Tony Allen is a Nigerian born, self taught musician who for eleven years, was the drummer and musical director for the legendary band Fela Kuti and Africa 70. Allen along with Kuti have been credited with pioneering afrobeat music. His latest project, "Secret Agent" was released in early 2010.
- Antibalas performs in The Current studios The sprawling Brooklyn-based group Antibalas has a core of eleven members but frequently incorporates other musicians, with each collaboration adding unique wrinkles to the band's funk and jazz-inflected Afrobeat sound.