ByÂ Â Pamela Mojekwu
On getting to Ravinia, inÂ Highland Park, Illinois last Wednesday July 1st, 2009 we walked around the grounds a bit before the concert started. We saw Nigerians decked out in unique fashion and styles galore. (TrustÂ us,Â Nigerians,Â weÂ know how to do it!)
The crowd was mixed and some of the people we spoke to thought it was such a deal to come and listen to two great Nigerian musicians. Femi Kuti and Sunny Ade were featured. Ravinia is a place where concerts are held. It has large
expansive grounds and people picnic out there during concerts. Several restaurants are scattered all over the grounds.
Alcohol kiosks were strategically placed near the band shell. The band shell comes with seats and that is where all the action is.
Femiâ€™s Positive Force opened up the concert. The band was playing and his dancers came in, looking very energetic, as demonstrated in their steps.
They were decked out in yellow skimpy skirts with a bra top and lots of African beads. The band was in an Ankara top with matching pants. The whole presentation looked great as the colours in their outfits coordinated with each other.
The lighting on the stage with the graphic background drop gave the whole place the Afrikan Shrine look. The dancers twisted and gyrated to the pulsating mesmerising sounds. A quick look around the front row seats showed all the men (and some women too) watching with rapt attention.
When Femi came out, the crowd erupted into cheers. His first song was Stop AIDS. This song was written when his father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, died.
Femi is emerging as one of Nigeriaâ€™s top crusaders on the fight against AIDS. After three songs, he stopped and addressed his crowd. He thanked everyone for coming out and taught his reoccurring verse of: Ara ra ra ra ra; and the response of: oro ro ro ro ro.
He engaged the audience with those chants and they responded with enthusiasm, further charging the already charged air. Femi enlivened the audience by singing Bang Bang Bang — his most controversial song that was banned on the Nigerian airwaves. Some people could not hold back any longer as dancing in their seats was not doing it for them.
The aisles quickly filled up with people, dancing and singing. When he got to the part where he sings: jump, jump, jump, the crowd was already jumping.
Canâ€™t Buy Me, a song that addresses the sugar daddy syndrome, was greeted by cheers…. When he sang his anti government song, Se Were, the crowd was really ready for the roof to come down as the dancing got more frenzied. When he ended with Fela Ko Ji Ku, a song stating that Fela still lives, he took the roof with him as he exited.
The band continued playing and the dancers gyrated and twisted their way off stage. The audience hanged around, clapping and cheering hoping, Femi would make another appearance. He was back stage getting ready to depart to his next destination. What a show!
We made our way back stage and were ushered in with some of his other friends. We had a chance to chat for a few minutes and he shared that though he was playing with Sunny that day, that they crossover in some places. Sunny opened the show for them in Minnesota. They have another appearance together in Montreal. Femi and Positive Force have seven more shows left on their tour of Europe. Their return to Nigeria will be in early August 2009.
On the closure of Afrika Shrine, Femi said, â€œIt was opened one week after it was closed. We were given 48 hours to address some issues and after they were served papers. Before the time they were given to address those issues passed, the government swooped in and closed Shrine down.â€
The issues had to do with street traders, parking and noise pollution. Femiâ€™s answer to all that was these: â€œIt is left for them to clear the street traders and not a job for Afrika Shrine.
On the issue of noise pollution, Fashola should close down all Churches and Mosques. The security men placed there by Fashola should do their job and control traffic effectively.â€
Femi further states that â€œFashola banned street parties one week before Felabration.â€ Felabration was a celebration on Felaâ€™s 70th birthday. The event featured many Nigerian musicians who performed for little or nothing at New Afrika Shrine. Certainly, he is moving his fatherâ€™s name and efforts into a new generation.