Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – Melbourne Recital Centre

“The first thing you realise when you witness an afrobeat show for the first time is that it’s all about the spectacle, this is showmanship of the highest order. It’s not like the music isn’t explosive enough, driving slabs of funk grooves, stabbing horns and traditional African percussion, with shakers, hand drums even a woodblock. But that’s only the beginning. It’s how afrobeat operates, there are multiple levels at play here, and its extremely unlikely that anyone who experiences the show wont be moved by at least one. 

Full review here.

 

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SEUN KUTI & EGYPT 80/ BOMBAY ROYALE – Hi Fi Bar

Melbourne’s The Bombay Royale look to Bollywood for inspiration, buying into a fantasy world of surf guitar, super villains, and damsels in distress. There’s a cruise ship captain and the horn section wear masks. In front of a typically excitable AWME crowd they tear through tracks from their recent debut album You Me Bullets Love, the searing funk of Sote Sote Adhi Raat a highlight.

When Egypt 80 take to the stage The Hi Fi Bar is bursting at the seams. Their sound is well honed after decades of performing, taut, primed ready to explode. Afrobeat doesn’t get more urgent, more life affirming than this. Kuti appears and is immediately onto the sax, kicking everything up a notch. He’s playing his fathers Zombie “out of respect for the man,” and it’s incredible to the point of being overwhelming.  Next up they launch into Fire Dance from their debut album and the band feel even tighter. This is the way music should be, relentless, primal, and precise. Kuti is all over the stage writhing in time with the music, offering urgent sax solos, though also stopping occasionally to talk politics. “Africa is the worlds experiment,” he proclaims, “you want austerity? We’ve had it for years. You should send over the Europeans, we can train them in austerity and then send them back.” He chuckles to himself before launching into Rise Up, the title track to his last album, a track that felt a little indulgent on record, but live is a welcome breather from the relentless energy. The Good Leaf is also preceded by a monologue, with Kuti pondering how marijuana, something that occurs naturally could be illegal. Earthquakes kill many more people, yet they’re legal he suggests.

Tonight most of the tunes come from his recent From Africa With Fury: Rise album, and Kuti is a passionate spokesperson for his continent. It’s not just in his banter with the crowd, or his lyrics, but his energy, his intelligence and sheer musicianship. The band is of course a weapon, they know no other way than totally uncompromising pedal to the metal.

In the audience bodies are flying everywhere, the effect this music is having is remarkable. When he finally leaves the stage the roar for an encore is among the loudest noises that this writer has ever heard. But this is what Kuti and Egypt 80 do, they ignite the listener, both in body and mind.

Fragmented Frequencies 7th Dec 08

The problem with Femi Kuti is his father Fela. How can you possibly compete with a legacy as immense as that? Or at the very least forge your own identity? It’s the Ted Whitten effect. What chance did Ted Jnr have when his father was Mr Football? If he played well, it was never as good as his father, and if he played poorly then he was an insult to the legacy. The solution? Retire at 25 and run a foundation dedicated to your father’s memory. So to with music. We’re so desperate for another piece of Fela that we try to build Femi in his image, willing him to commit just one more epic Afro-beat freak-out, and he regularly obliges. Femi was in his father’s band, so he knows the ropes, though he’d also no doubt feel the pressure. On his latest album Day By Day (Wrasse/ Filter) he does give us a couple of tastes of Afro-beat, and shares his fathers desire to meld politics and music, yet he also diversifies, attempting to move beyond his father and create his own path. He’s moved from sax to trumpet, and the music takes on a jazzier and at times a light, relaxed, and mellow feel, moving at a gentle cadence with the occasional brass stab. It’s definitely Femi’s most interesting and complex work to date, and solidifies his reputation as an artist in his own right. For those still yearning for the Fela experience, Femi’s brother Seun has enlisted Fela’s Egypt 80 band and is making his way to Womadelaide next year, and legendary percussionist and bandleader of Fela’s Africa 70 Tony Allen will also playing the Corner – both in March 09.

Another man with family issues is Lulo Reinhardt, grand nephew to gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. In fact there is a certain similarity between Lulo and Femi. Both have an incredible affinity with their famous relative’s stock and trade, yet use it as a launch pad to explore their own musical whims. His Latin Swing Project (Toca/ Filter). begins with gypsy swing yet also dips into elements of samba, flamenco, tango and jazz influences. He’s in town and playing at the Famous Speigeltent tomorrow night. His musicianship is incredible, and his live show incendiary. He’s also got one up on Django: he has all his fingers.

Not only is there a new 2 disc compilation, but also an accompanying coffee table book for Dancehall: the Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture (Soul Jazz/ Inertia). With text and hundreds of photographs from Beth Lesser, it’s a definitive chronicle of the phenomenon which began in the 50’s in Kingston Jamaica with Coxsone Dodd’s sound system and has continued to this day. Lesser was there 27 years ago and her accounts come from this insider perspective as she talks of her experiences at sound clashes, The DJ’s, the police, the poverty and the political violence. The photos too are incredible. everyone from Sly and Robbie, Gregory Isaacs, King Jammy, everyone you could think of back in the day. It’s an incredibly creative time in the history of music, where the scene was experiencing a resurgence and the creativity was rampant.

Stutter is pleased to be hosting a four-way, a combined Christmas party with the excellent Sabbatical Record label (www.sbbtcl.com/sbbtcl), the dark brooding Sweat Lung (www.sweatlung.blogspot.com), the launch of issue 21 of Cyclic Defrost Magazine and their own celebration of a year of incredible experimental music. It’s on at Horse Bazaar on Wednesday the 17th of December.

Finally tonight, and when I say “tonight!” it’s with a high pitched squeal and a metal salute, Philip Brophy is living out his metal fantasies. Bare-chested and adorned with long flowing black metal-dude hair, flailing away at the drums, he will be flanked by two exuberant explosive dancers. No words. No guitars. No other visible instruments. Just a set of skins sandwiched by skin. It all sounds very wrong, yet it’s a performance to end the One of Us Cannot be Wrong Exhibition and it’s at the TOFF in town. And yes Phil, sorry to say but I know which of us is wrong.

-Bob Baker Fish