25 August 2005

Femi Kuti: Live at the Shrine (CD/DVD review)

If the fingerprints of Fela Anikulapo Kuti are found on much "world music" today, it's doubly true for Nigerian music. His son Femi must have had moments of doubt about inheriting the role of political critic, social worker, and prophet. But no such doubts surface in the course of this DVD, which tracks Femi at home and at work in Ikeja, on the outskirts of Lagos.Femi Kuti Live at the Shrine

Just down the road from his father's famous Shrine, Femi has converted an old warehouse into a combination home, social center, and nightclub. During the week, locals flock to see the band rehearsals, which are open (there's even voting on the concert set lists). And every Sunday night, the new Africa Shrine erupts as hundreds of Nigerians and visitors blow off the accumulated week's steam. The DVD looks at many of the Shrine's players, including fans, security, and the band. It's Femi who drives this bus, though, and you see why when he's talking about his role for the community and for Nigerian more broadly. He doesn't flinch at the contradiction between his fiercely pro-democracy songs and the fans who would coronate him as a prophet-king.

Femi chastises the crowd for loving sex and drink too much, then launches into "Shotan" - its musically ferocity echoed by the beer and white plastic chairs flying over the audience. On stage his voice and persona are sometimes laid back. Then suddenly he appears possessed by some ancestral spirit, his face and body contorted, his eyes wild. The DVD comes with a companion 14-track CD with much of the same music as the DVD. If you want to understand Femi - or Fela or Nigerian politics for that matter - this DVD may be the next best thing to being there - and you're less likely to be hit by a plastic chair.

Buy it here

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