Love, colonisation, corruption in politics, and the state of black people were topics he expressed with West African pidgin English and chants, which made his sound translate across various cultures, and made his music known across the globe.
After his solo performance, Demi brought out vocalist Terri Walker, and one of my favourite artists, the Floacist (Natalie Stewart of Floetry, known for her gift of provocative wordplay), and together they gave a soul-moving rendition of Fela’s hard-hitting, ‘Zombie’.
Legendary drummer Tony Allen, who played alongside the Fela Kuti joined the performance as he masterfully controlled the sounds of the drum. Shingai Shoniwa’s performance was really electrifying as she gradually took her performance into crowd, ending with charismatic slide down British library’s escalator.
Another key performance was Afrikan Boy’s rendition of ‘Black Man’s Cry’. I first heard about Afrikan Boy as a young teen with his song ‘Lidl’ blowing up the London Grime scene in 2007. His lyrics were powerful and dealt with the current social issues of black people very alike to Fela’s original version.
This night was not just only for Fela fans, but for all music fans. It was great to see so many British based artists unapologetically embody their African heritage, and perform to celebrate one of Africa’s most treasured artists who championed free speech and Pan-Africanism.
A big thanks to team at British Library, and especially Alice Carter who invited us down.