Femi Kuti & The Positive Force and Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra

Thursday, September 13 at 8 pm
Belgrade Fortress, Lower Town

September 13 at 8 pm
Belgrade Fortress, Lower Town
FREE Concert

 

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force
Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra with Conductor Jian Emin

 

Opening Act: Igor Vince & His Drum, Brass and Keys

 

Those who have followed his career and have experienced his music know this for a fact: Femi Kuti never felt just satisfied with being the king’s heir, Fela Kuti. He freed himself from his father’s legacy in 1985 by putting together his own band, The Positive Force, and thereby working to find his own voice. During the ‘90s he became a renowned artist in his own right, with a distinctive, colourful and balanced style. In 1998 he took on the Afrobeat sound with his first international album ‘Shoki Shoki’, before rubbing shoulders with the modern urban style of his American peers such as Mos Def and Common on the album ‘Fight to Win’. Finally, his first studio record only came about in 2008, having found inspiration in Paris. This unanimously celebrated release ‘Day by Day’ was his most successful.

 

For 2011 album ‘Africa for Africa’ Femi felt he needed to go back to his roots back to the studio where he had produced his first recordings with his father and his solo album ‘Shoki Shoki’. Decca Studio, soon to become Afrodisia Records in the ‘70s, was the experimenting ground for most Nigerian masterpieces of the time, including those of Fela. ‘It was a very important historical place for Afrobeat and the place has those mystical vibrations that Femi felt’, recalls Sodi, his long-time travelling buddy and Parisian producer, who made the trip to Lagos to be a part of the project. ‘We knew the studio was in a bad state, with old mixing desks, ancient equipment, we all knew the gear would not be up to the test, but we wanted to take up the challenge – because everything is different in Lagos. The city is such a monster; it has an effect on the way musicians play.  The trick is to capture the Lagos stress without yielding under it yourself.’  Femi gives us further insight: ‘Between the power cuts and the dysfunctional AC, we were sweating like pigs. I was playing with Sodi, pretending to complain: “We could be in a comfortable place right now, what are we doing here?” It was madness, but that's what we wanted it to be.’

 

If ‘Africa for Africa’ was the return to the roots then subsequent album ‘No Place for My Dream’ (2013) was the growth from these roots.  Ever pushing the boundaries of the genre, Femi’s central aim for this work was a redefining of the essence of Afrobeat – but in the modern age.  How does one redefine the essence of such a complex music – one that, since its creation in the late ‘60s by Femi’s father, Fela Kuti, has blended funk, jazz and African folk?  In Femi’s words Afrobeat remains music that ‘makes people dance while helping them swallow the bitter pill of reality’. Given the crisis currently hitting Africa and the world beyond, that pill is as hard as ever to swallow, and Afrobeat is as necessary and universal as it has ever been.  

 

Fela used to say that Afrobeat was ‘the weapon of the future - designed to resist, not to fight’.  He would surely be proud of his son putting this philosophy into use with songs like ‘Action Time’ and ‘Carry on Pushing On’.  ‘I think that today, everywhere in the world, people get so hopeless that music is the only way to find the strength to carry on and overcome obstacles.  This is also what this album is about’ says Femi.

 

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