Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Live in Detroit 1986

by Fela Kuti & Egypt 80

This double-disc album contains recordings from Fela Kuti's concert at the Fox Theatre in Detroit in 1986.  Each disc in this set contains two tracks, with running times between twenty-nine and forty minutes.

Fela arrived in America after serving two years in prison in Nigeria on trumped up charges.  His release was partly due to the fact that Amnesty International took up his cause, and then brought him on tour to the US.  Her performed at the Fox with something like twenty-three people in his band, and it sounds like it was one incredible concert.

I don't know if the concert extended beyond these four songs - these alone account for almost two and a half hours worth of music - and I have to say it must have been incredible to watch the band perform these four tracks.  Fela has masterful control over his band (giving various musicians long solos) and his audience, engaging them in call-and-response while lecturing them on topics such as how African speak with 'whole mouth', and how things in Nigeria can happen 'Just Like That'.

It's hard to imagine contemporary concert goers sticking around for forty-minute tracks; I think it would be more likely to see a twenty-minute medley of snippets of each of his biggest and best-known songs, which would also be amazing to hear, but would lack some of the authenticity of these recordings.

This is an essential album for fans of Afrobeat, Fela, or just good music.

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