Afro Brazil Museum exhibit of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti album covers highlights artist’s growing appeal in Brazil

Museu Afro Brasil in São Paulo features an exhibit of Fela Kuti
Museu Afro Brasil in São Paulo features an exhibit of Fela Kuti

Note from BW of Brazil: This writer first became aware of the incredible Nigerian musician Fela Kuti back in 1997 after the publicity surrounding the death of the artist. Kuti’s exciting, sophisticated music was a fusion of many styles that has attracted legions of fans around the world. Fela’s poly-rhythmic, horn-accented, bass heavy grooves labeled him Africa’s answer to James Brown for some. Interestingly, Kuti began his career imitating the sounds of the “Godfather of Soul”. In the early years of the 21st century, it was difficult to meet any Brazilians who had ever heard of the Nigerian legend who was famous not only for his sophisticated dance grooves, but also his political stances and his backing dancers, the 27 of which he married in a ceremony in 1978. Suffice it say, this has changed in a big way as “Fela-brations” in honor of the man and music caught on in a big way throughout Brazil perhaps a little passed the halfway point of the new century. Continuing this discovery of Fela Kuti, the Museu Afro Brasil in São Paulo has featured an exhibit of Fela’s album covers and the stories behind the art and song themes for a few months now. Kuti’s musical experiments are also the inspiration for a number of Brazilian musical acts. This is how the Museu Afro Brasil website reported on this:

Today, there is a horde of young artists experimenting in sounds based on Kuit’s Afrobeat that developed in the 70s, especially among the heirs of the Mangue-Beat in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. In São Paulo, there was even the appearance of a band, Bixiga 70, directly inspired by  Fela’s bands, Africa ‘70 Egypt ‘80. Other similar initiatives have been popping up all over Brazil, like Abayomy Afrobeat Orchestra, emerging in Rio de Janeiro, and the group Burro Morto in the state of Paraíba.

Note from BW of Brazil: The Okay Africa website site had this to say about Afrobeat’s influence in Brazil:

Afrobeat rhythms have been a percolating influence in Brazilian music for decades, popping up in the work of artists like Gilberto Gil in the 1970s and rockers Nação Zumbi (above) in the late 90s. The last few years have found afrobeat becoming an integral component in the sound of a new generation of Brazilian musicians, working its way into the grooves of hip-hop artists Curumin and Criolo and downtempo divas Céu and Anelis Assumpção. Perhaps this shouldn’t comes as a surprise, as the roots of the current Afrobeat movement were planted in Brazil long ago. Brazil is home to the largest population of African diaspora in the world and the musical traditions of Brazil’s African descendants have been surprisingly well preserved through the rituals of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé.

Note from BW of Brazil: For the entire article see here. Below is info about the exhibit as well as the release of the 1982 Fela biography in 2011 now in Portuguese. Also note the various flyers of events featuring Fela’s music throughout Brazil in the piece below. If you’re still not familiar with Fela’s infectious rhythms check out a few choice selections at the bottom of the page. The “Fela-bration” continues!

A few of Fela's album covers featured at Museu Afro Brasil
A few of Fela’s album covers featured at Museu Afro Brasil

Exhibition brings together album covers of Fela Kuti in the Museu Afro Brasil

By Jorge Almeida

The Museu Afro Brazil is featuring an exhibition called “Fela Kuti – A Verdade Nunca Morre – O Design Gráfico dos LPs (The Truth Never Dies – The Graphic Design of LPs)”, which is a tribute to Nigerian musician and composer Fela Anikulapo Ransome Kuti, or simply Fela Kuti (1938-1997), famous worldwide for his ability to impose in his works commitments related to social issues.

Tribute to Fela Kuti in Cabo Frio, Rio de Janeiro
Tribute to Fela Kuti in Cabo Frio, Rio de Janeiro

With 41 album covers on display, the material was donated to the museum by the collector Carlos Moore, biographer of the musician, and in addition, the exhibition features a video with a three-minute interview with the artist Lemi Ghariokwu entitled “Três Décadas de Design Gráfico para Fela Kuti (Three Decades of Graphic Design for Fela Kuti).”

"Fela Day" in Recife, Pernambuco
“Fela Day” in Recife, Pernambuco

Known as one of the forerunners of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti was a multi -instrumentalist that used guitar, African drums and other instruments to drive his joyful music, but with emblematic social content. Moreover, he always defended the excluded, fought against the authorities, and stood up against racism, among other causes. And this can be noted on albums like Sorrow, Tears and Blood (1977) and Unknown Soldier (1979).

Exhibition: Fela Kuti – Fela Kuti – A Verdade Nunca Morre – O Design Gráfico dos LPs (The Truth Never Dies – The Graphic Design of the LPs).
Where: Museu Afro Brazil – Parque do Ibirapuera (Ibirapuera Park) – Avenida Pedro Alvares Cabral , s/n º – Gate 10 – Pavilhão Padre Manoel da Nobrega
When: From Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm
Cost: Free entrance

Note from BW of Brazil: Here is an excerpt about the release of the Portuguese edition of the Fela biography in 2011. The article is from May 25, 2011.

Biography of Fela Kuti is published in Brazil

from the newsroom of Correio Nagô

Fela Kuit biography. Left, the original 1982 English version entitled "Fela: This Bitch of a Life" and right, the 2011 edition in Portuguese entitled "Fela: Esta Vida Puta"
Fela Kuit biography. Left, the original 1982 English version entitled “Fela: This Bitch of a Life” and right, the 2011 edition in Portuguese entitled “Fela: Esta Vida Puta”

On the 30th of May, will be published in the book Brazil Fela: Esta Vida Puta (Originally entitled, Fela: This Bitch of a Life), the astonishing biography of Nigerian singer and multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti. The book written by the Cuban ethnologist based in Salvador, Bahia, Carlos Moore, describes in detail the life of the principal African musician of all time. Starting from June 1st, a series of events in various capitals will mark the release of the book.

Fela Day in Rio de Janeiro
Fela Day in Rio de Janeiro

Almost three decades after its first publication in France and England, in 1982, the biography is being released in Brazil by the Minas Gerais-based editor Nandyala Editor. The biography was the first work of its kind on the African musician, which makes it even more historical. The work raises expectations because of the growing interest around the world in the artist’s life and the rebirth of the international music he created – Afrobeat – nearly fifteen years after his death in Nigeria, in 1997, caused by AIDS.

Fela Day in Bahia
Fela Day in Bahia

With a foreword by (legendary Brazilian singer/musician) Gilberto Gil, the book recounts the details of the troubled life of the controversial Nigerian musician, a staunch advocate of Pan-Africanism. Positioning himself squarely against any kind of oppression, Fela founded an autonomous commune to which he gave the name Kalakuta Republic, an environment that valued freedom and musical creativity. Fela: Esta Puta Vida was first published in Nigeria in 2010 and already has several editions planned for other languages, including German, Italian and Japanese. The book has been the subject of praise for its unusual character and bold writing. Indeed, the life of Fela is narrated in the first person by Moore himself, but using the words of Fela, taken from interviews conducted in the eighties. Which made the (popular Afro-Brazilian) actor Lázaro Ramos consider the work of Moore “a fundamental book” to understanding the story of Fela Kuti.

Fela Day in the capital city of Brasília
Fela Day in the capital city of Brasília

Musical influence

Little known in Brazil, the music of Fela Kuti has influenced hundreds of artists worldwide and is fairly widespread especially in Nigeria where Kuti has the status of a national hero. In Brazil, besides the musician Gilberto Gil – who met him in Lagos during the 2nd World Festival of Black Arts and Culture (Festac), in 1977 – the Afro-Brazilian singer/musician Jorge Ben Jor also reveres the work of the Nigerian (having participated in an international tribute in 2002 that featured dozens of artists from Africa and the Diaspora: Sade, Dead Prez, Baba Maal, Talib Kweli and more).

Source: Okay Africa, Museu Afro BrasilCorreio Nagô, Cultura e Futebol

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About Marques Travae 2894 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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