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17 years after, Fela is still regarded as people’s champion

The enviable place of Fela Anikulakpo Kuti as one of world’s notable music legends was re-asserted last Sunday, when Jamaican legendary reggae star, Don Carlos, leading local and foreign artistes, closed this year’s edition of the annual musical concert tagged “Felabration”, writes BENJAMIN NJOKU

felaFela died seventeen (1997) years ago. But every year, thousands of fun seekers across the world throng the New Africa Shrine, in Ikeja, Lagos, to keep his legacies alive. This year was no exception. Celebrated under the theme, “Who No Know Go Know” this year’s Felabration re-echoed the strong belief that Fela never dies but lives on.

The week-long festival climaxed last Sunday, but not without funfare. At the New Afrika Shrine venue of the final night of the festival, it was a celebration of the life and times of Fela. Leading other notable local and international artistes to celebrate the man whose impact on the world music scene lives on, was legendary Don Carlos. Don was performing for the first time in Nigeria.

However, enticing with its décor, ambiance and the historical reflection of the legacies of Fela, the shrine came alive from 9 pm when the Gangbe Brass Band from Benin Republic opened the concert.

The eight-man band, which mixes traditional Benin idioms and invigorates them with jazz harmonies, performed a number of Afrobeat songs, with Femi Kuti, son of Fela, joining them on stage for a short duet.

FelabrationAfter their captivating performance, notable Nigerian artistes including Styl Plus, Olaitan Adeniji and his Heavywindz Band, Eda O tan Band, Orezi, Isla Kauche (Olumide Bamigboye), Weird MC, Oritsefemi, Harrysong, and Kcee (who stunned the audience as he gave out $1,500 cash prize to two fun seekers that excelled during a dance competition) took turns to thrill the audience.

But the crowd erupted into uncontrollable excitement at exactly 12.45 am when Don Carlos came on stage. His stage presence and energetic performance, even at 62, got him a resounding ovation from thousands of fun seekers who waited patiently to behold their the legendary reggae star perform on stage.

Carlos who had his greatest success singing with Black Uhuru, the reggae trio he formed in 1974, with two friends- Rudolph Dennis and Derrick “Duckie” Simpson- from the “Waterhouse” district in Kingston, was excited to be in Nigeria and a part of the celebration of Afrobeat legend.

“It is an honour to be in Lagos Nigeria to celebrate Fela, a true African champion and Afrobeat King. Fela was a prophet and a legend of our time. He was like Bob Marley,” he remarked.

Among Fela’s songs, Carlos picked Water No get Enemy, as his favourite, adding “The song conveys a powerful message.”

The legendary reggae star performed alongside fellow reggae star from Dominica, Raymond ‘Aima’ Moses. The energetic reggae star opened the gig for legendary artiste,who later launched into his repertoire. Backed by Femi Kuti’s Positive Force Band, Carlos reeled out some of his evergreen songs, leaving fun seekers with memories of time past.

The legendary reggae star kept the audience on their feet dancing to his root rock reggae music for 45 minutes. Rendering songs such as Spread Out, Harvest Time and Day to Day Living, Carlos made a triumphant appearance at this year’s festival. Root reggae with passion and strength was his gift to the audience.

He was exciting and inspirational, while Femi’s band kept a steady ‘riddim.’ Interestingly, Femi Kuti closed the night with an electrifying Afrobeat session.

Over 100 established and emerging stars performed at the week-long music festival organized to celebrate the life and times of the late Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. It was a week of fun at the New Afrika Shrine and the Freedom Park, another venue of the event in Lagos. Those who graced the event still believed that Fela was the true man of the people who stood for justice and was critical of the ruling class.

Apart from 1999, Felabration, which idea was conceived by eldest child of Fela, Yeni in 1998, has become a yearly ritual. Currently, the festival has grown into a mega week-long musical event which attracts thousands of visitors annually to the New Africa Shrine from all over the world. Over the years, the festival attracted many heavyweight musicians from all over the world.

The roll call include Hugh Masakela, Femi Kuti, Lucky Dube, Awilo, Baba Maal, Les Nubians, King Sunny Ade, Lagbaja, Asa, TuFace, Seun Kuti and many others. In 2008, over 50 international artistes came together from the United States, Great Britain, France and Senegal to perform at Felabration under the banner, African Express. This year’s festival featured exciting line ups of artistes who truly whetted the appetite of music lovers.

Why we brought Don Carlos to Nigeria’

Representative of Exodus and Promotions, the agent that facilitated Don Carlos’ recent visit to Nigeria, Raheem, narrates how they were able to bring the legendary reggae star to grace this year’s festival.

“We have been in Lagos for the past five years promoting reggae music on radio. We have a show on top Rhythm F.M 99.9 and on High Groove radio .com. I have also spent a reasonable period of time in the Shrine. During that time, Don Carlos is a name that a lot of people in the Shrine kept talking about. So, when the plans were laid out and the theme for this year’s Felabration: “Legend: Who No Know Go Know” announced, I couldn’t think of any other person than Don Carlos. I sold the idea of bringing Don Carlos to the planning committee and they embraced it.

Don is one reggae legend who supports up and coming artistes. Reggae star, Raymond ‘Aima’ Moses is today supported by Don Carlos. He opens shows for Don in the United States. We were able to negotiate with them, and it was comfortable to bring the reggae artistes to Nigeria to grace the Felabration stage. Right now, we need to start having live music shows in Nigeria; reggae music as well as Afrobeat music respectively.

 


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