Selected by Dan Grunebaum

Femi Kuti and the Positive Force

Courtesy of Smash
Femi Kuti

Son of legendary Afrobeat firebrand Fela Kuti, saxophonist and bandleader Femi Kuti returns to Japan by popular demand after stoking crowds in Tokyo appearances last year.

Growing up the son of Nigeria' most famous bandleader wasn't easy on son Femi. At one point, when Fela was imprisoned by the government from 1984-86, Femi had to take up the mantle and keep the band going. But the responsibility seems to have had a good impact on Femi, who has gradually assumed the role of international Afrobeat leader since his father's death, especially after a starring performance at the 1990 WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) festival thrust Femi onto the global stage.

"My music is about raising questions and finding solutions. I want to sing about the solutions, not just the problems."

Stylistically, Femi's albums with his own 13-member band, the Positive Force, such as 1995's Femi Kuti (Tabu), '96's Femi Kuti & the Positive Force (Melodie) and '99's Shoki Shoki (Polygram) have, while shortening the length of Fela's marathon workouts to more radio-friendly 3-4 minute pop songs, hewed to his father's blend of sinuous percussion-based grooves layered with modern, soul and jazz-influenced melodies. But in terms of his own lifestyle, Femi seems to have learned the right lessons from his father's notorious decadence (he had 28 wives) and death from AIDS in 1997. At 36, Femi abstains from drugs, is monogamous, and carries on his father's progressivism with a more practical approach.

Through his music, and his political activism, Femi is dedicated to enlightening the world about Africa and bringing about change there. In a recent Newsweek interview, Femi described his informal political party, Movement Against Second Slavery (MASS): "We started MASS to try and make the youth of Africa more aware and active. African youth are highly brainwashed; if we do not start to do something about it, soon we're not going to want to believe in our traditions, accept our heritage or be African."

Femi Kuti plays Liquid Room on April 13-14.

Concert Listings
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana