Afrobeat enthusiasts celebrate late legend Fela Kuti

Sunday Alamba, The Associated Press

Sunday Alamba, The Associated Press

By Katy Pownall

LAGOS, Nigeria – Thousands of Afrobeat enthusiasts danced through the night in a cavernous warehouse to celebrate what would have been the 70th birthday of late Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti.

The late Saturday night concert marked the climax of Nigeria’s annual “Felabration,” which pays homage to Kuti, the founder of Afrobeat music and a staunch political activist.

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Musicians coming to honor him included Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ bassist Flea, Gorillaz singer-songwriter Damon Albarn and Magic Number’s vocalist Romeo Stodart, who played an energetic set fronted by Senegalese hip-hop artists Baaba Maal and Daara J and accompanied by a seven piece brass band.

But it took the pulsating drum beats of Kuti’s son Femi to bring the 3,000-strong crowd to life in the dingy venue.

As marijuana smoke hung thick in the hot air, Femi and his scantily clad dancers writhed and grooved through a hypnotic set that included one of his father’s best known tracks, “Water get no enemy.”

The enraptured audience danced and cheered wildly.

Fela Kuti created the Afrobeat genre in the 1960s by combining African sounds with a fusion of jazz, R&B;, rock and soul music. He was an activist as well as a musician, and his satirical lyrics often decried the poverty and mistreatment of his fellow Nigerians. Many of his songs antagonized Nigeria’s government, which in turn frequently harassed and jailed him, his family and supporters.

Fela Kuti died in 1997, at age 58.