The Paris Philharmonic is devoting an immersive monographic exhibition in tribute to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, inventor of Afrobeat in the 1970s, who “had a real love affair with France,” according to Alexandre Girard-Muscagorry, one of the exhibition curators.
Femi Kuti, the son of the Afrobeat legend spoke of his father’s bravery in using “music as a weapon” ahead of an immersive exhibition opening on Thursday. “Instead of picking up a gun, music was the only tool he had. It was a weapon to use against authority, against colonisation and corrupt African governments,” said Femi Kuti who is also a successful musician.
Known as the “Black President,” Fela had an important influence both musically and politically throughout his career from the late 1970s to his death in 1997.
The exhibition looks back at the creation and evolution of Afrobeat, a style that blends several influences like jazz, soul, funk, Yoruba rhythms.
Fela has always expressed his convictions by denouncing the corruption of the elites and neo-colonialism. His political heritage comes from the pan-Africanism of Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah and Cheikh Anta Diop, and more importantly from his mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a fearless anti-colonial activist.
The exhibition presents archives, works and testimonies on the political positions and controversial lifestyle that earned this sulphurous character trouble with the law and incarceration, but which still continue to fuel struggles in Nigeria and other countries.
The Fela Kuti exhibition at the Cité de la Musique will immerse you in the atmosphere of the musician’s mythical concerts with the help of projections and the discovery of record sleeves and stage costumes. On the great international stages and at the Afrika Shrine, his club in Lagos, Fela’s concerts, his musicians and dancers have left an indelible impression on the audience, between hypnotic rhythms, political harangues and ritual performances.
The Philharmonie de Paris offers a special program of concerts around Fela Kuti with Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Tony Allen, Oumou Sangaré, Sébastien Tellier, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Angélique Kidjo… Two shows will also be programmed: a piece by Qudus Onikeku with ten young dancers and the piece Kalakuta Republik by Burkinabe choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly.