One of the biggest stars of contemporary African music will perform at the 26th edition of Koroga Festival next weekend.
Femi Kuti, scion of the family of the legendary Nigerian Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti, will be the headline act at the festival, the celebration of African art and culture. He comes to Nairobi with his Positive Force band fresh from last week’s rousing performance at the opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations.
He was among the trio of international stars, alongside Egyptian artist Hakim and Dobet Gnahore from the Ivory Coast who sang the tournament’s theme song “Metgameen” (we are together) in front of 70,000 fans under the floodlights at the Cairo International Stadium and a global TV audience.
This will be a showcase of the best African music from an international star performing alongside top Kenyan acts. East African legends Them Mushrooms lead a Kenyan line up for the two day festival that also includes rapper Jua Cali and the group Ethic that has just been signed by A.I Records, local affiliate of Universal Music.
The music fans who had an opportunity to watch Femi perform at his first ever show in Nairobi in June 2005 will have fond memories of the vibrant showmanship, full-blooded sound and performance by a large ensemble in a style reminiscent of concerts that made Afrobeat a global phenomenon in the 1970s and 80s.
In the typical Afrobeat tradition, Femi combines the finest in African genres like highlife along with jazz, funk but he has also brought the music into a contemporary setting with the infusion of hip-hop and house music. The Afro beat still retains Fela’s core lyrical content of anti-establishment ranting against official corruption, poverty and cultural exploitation.
Just like Fela had his Egypt 70 band (remnants of which now tour with his other musician son, Seun), Femi who like his father also plays saxophone, has Positive Force. This is the band he formed in 1987 and which has played on his albums including “Shoki Shoki”, “Fight to Win” and “Africa for Africa” and toured the world with him.
Femi and his younger brother have also reopened the Shrine the legendary nightclub where their father performed in his heyday. Erykah Badu, Damon Albarn and the late Hugh Masekela have since performed on the famous stage and even world leaders like Emmanuel Macron of France made a visit to the New Afrika Shrine as part of his official itinerary in the midst of official engagements in Lagos in 2018.
Femi announced on his Twitter page this week: “We are playing two shows at the Afrika Shrine this weekend before we leave for the Koroga Festival in Kenya”
In December 2018, he was among the global stars including Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, Beyoncé and Jay Z who performed at the Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birthday and call for an end to extreme poverty across the world.
Olufemi Anikulapo Kuti, who turned 57 on the 12 June, was born in London but grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. He started playing the saxophone and keyboard in his father’s band at the age of 15 but soon freed himself from his father’s legacy by putting together his own band and crafting his own identity.
His international career began in 1988 with a widely acclaimed international tour of France and Germany. In 2001, he collaborated with top US artists including Common, Mos Def and Jaguar Wright on his album “Fight to Win”
He has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the world music category in 2003, 2010, 2012 and 2013.