From DJ Tom Schnabel:
KCRW started playing Fela Anikulapo (he who looks death in the face) Kuti in 1980, long before Fela and his style, afrobeat, became popular. It was fitting that an LA-based station should give him airplay, since it was here in that Fela, an upper middle class boy from Lagos, discovered Black Nationalism and the Black Power Movement while living here in LA in1969.
Fela was also the first “KCRW Presents” show ever — in 1986, at the Olympic Auditorium in Downtown LA.
KCRW debuted King Sunny Ade (Nigerian juju music), Soukous and Congolese Rumba from Congo, but it was Fela’s music that has had the most staying power. Certainly his collaborations with drummer Ginger Baker of the classic rock group Cream didn’t hurt (there is an amazing DVD called Ginger Baker in Africa, a must-see).
Nigeria has such a strong culture, not only musical, but also the other arts. Think of the Benin masks (Benin is a neighboring country of Nigeria, but originally it was part of Yorubaland) that electrified Picasso in 1900 and inspired his first modernist painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which blasted the art world into the 20th Century. Cuban music was and is powered by Nigerian drumming that came with the slaves.
So it is a great opportunity to see the exhibition at UCLA’s Fowler Museum opening this weekend called Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley. I’ll also be moderating a FREE panel discussion on Saturday, February 26 at 3pm at the Fowler and I hope you Fela listeners can come.
— Tom Schnabel