Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80 2011.07.29 Manuel Artime Theatre Miami, FL

Seun Kuti
As should be expected in July, it was an overly warm evening in the East Little Havana borough of Miami. The sun was patiently setting on a cityscape known for neon accents and art deco themes, but we were heading into a less defined neighborhood off the beaten path. It would be a night of first time experiences, as I had never been to this section of the city, nor had the pleasure of patronizing the diamond in the rough venue that is the Manuel Artime Theatre. The Rhythm Foundation, a non-profit organization spanning over two decades of bringing world music to South Florida, had really outdone themselves. Tonight the son of a legendary afrobeat innovator, Seun Kuti, would grace the stage of the beautiful and spacious theatre for an exclusive night of Yoruba music adaptations infused with jazz, funk, highlife and African percussion. 
Seun Kuti 
The turn out exceeded my expectations and both the orchestra below and the wrap around balcony were we sat was reasonably filled with an eclectic mix of eager fans. Many were dressed to impress and all had laced up their dancing shoes in preparation to get their tabu flo groove on. It felt more like a cultural expo into a transformative performance that would be an odyssey into modern African culture, and how Western music played a part in the evolution. The set and setting was all Africa.  

Seun Kuti took the stage after his father's band of phenomenally skilled and dedicated instrumentalist warmed things up. Egypt 80 had been devoted to the genre movement to the point of being arrested and harassed for the cause. That unwavering love emanated from the stage, and it only took three songs before the crowd was up out of their seats and moving their feet. To make things even more exclusive, Fela Kuti never performed the songs he recorded, so this was a fan's dream come true to finally hear his kin and band mates immortalizing him.
Seun Kuti & Egytp 80
Extended horn section breakdowns and solos stirred the crowd into a frenzy time and time again as Seun balanced his African dance movements with a style similar to James Brown. In fact, his matching shirt, pants and shoes, animated showmanship, and his vocal conduction of the band was more than reminiscent of the Godfather of Soul. When he sensed the crowd needed a break, Seun would start into humorous narratives that bordered on the obscene, and playfully covered subjects such as marijuana legalization and after work copulation. His boyish antics and contagious smile personalized the experience and heightened moments when the band and audience were completely connected. After nearly two hours the band returned to the stage, at the request of a chanting and stomping crowd, to give us one more display of horn expertise, gyrating choreography and smooth funky rhythms. 

Videos courtesy of Adam Firtel of Cheesehead Productions

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