Last evening, I went to Carlos Moore's book signing at the Shades of Afrika Bookstore. I received an last minute email informing me that Mr. Moore, an ethnomusicologist, had written a book about Fela Kuti.
Author Carlos Moore
The best way to explain Fela and his music is this. Take James Brown type Funk, add Pan Afrikan ideas, horns and twenty different shades of love and you got Fela's music. So, I entered the Shades of Afrika bookstore excited that I was going to hear some great information about the late musical icon.
Now, just so you know. The Shades is more than just an art gallery and bookstore. It's a community center. It's been very important to Long Beach and very important to me at various times in my life. I could smell the incenses burning from across the street. I entered the shop and looked around at all the new books and works of art but I took in a relaxing breath of incensed air and looked around at the warm atmosphere.
Renee, the owner, greeted me and let me know that Carlos hadn't arrived yet. It was only 7:15 but the store was already full. Carlos, A dark skinned Afro Cuban entered about 7:45 and I greeted him first. I surprised myself cause I hugged him then introduced myself. Why? I have no idea but he gave off a great vibe and a wonderful genuine smile. The Shades of Afrika always has a diverse and multiethnic crowd so this wasn't surprising to me. What surprised me was how many Fela fans were there!
My friend Ifi, introduced me to Fela's music years ago. He put on a cassette that was a total funky dance groove. The groove went on for about six minutes before a word was spoken. But then I heard a Female singing the verse.
"English Man has an English name! German Man has a German Name! Afrikan Man has a British Name! Afrikan Man has a German Name! Every thing's upside down!"
It's Upside Down!
Every thing's Upside down!
I was hooked! I went to the nearest Music land store looking for Fela. I couldn't find any! Turns out they were imports! Finding and having Fela would be expensive! Ifi, my friend, would tell me stories about Fela in Nigeria. How he used his music to fight against the corruption in his own country. How they threw him in jail. How he declared his compound, his own republic and how the Nigerian Government attacked it and killed his Mother! All this for a musician who dared attack a corrupt government but who's army was an orchestra of 70 and including dancers and singers. His weapons, not a tank or a rifle, but an electric piano, a sax and his voice!
I heard Fela speak during an interlude of one of his long jams. " I want you to go and read a book called " The Black Man of the Nile!" By Dr. Yosef Ben Jocohanan. Fela talked about how the Black Man had been hurt by the Western Religions of Christianity and Islam both because they had not helped the Black Man liberate himself and his countries resources but instead implored us to bow and venerate some other land and it's people while throwing aside our own resources and traditions.
Carlos Moore spoke for more than an hour on Fela's music and how he affected Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley. Stevie got to meet Fela. Bob passed before he could! I remember reading about how Fela married forty Women at the same time. He could have up to forty wives and had no patience with the so called rule that he had to have them one at a time. I remember after he passed that he had two wells on his property. The New owner wanted the wells removed but the community would not remove the wells cause they said that they were for Fela's Gods and that only a spiritual master could remove them properly.
The new owner ignore the warning and hired Men to remove the wells. After they began moving the wells, a few of the Men dropped dead on the spot! It illustrates the lack of respect that folks had for Afrikan spiritual things and it's people!
Fela! Fela, believed in the power of people to change the world and it make it better. He felt that was why we were placed here and that was our main purpose. Carlos Moore has done a great job in providing a means for us to get to know Fela A. Kuti!
So please pick up a copy of Fela Kuti, This Bitch of a Life! by Carlos Moore
BE Mindful!BE Prayerful! BE Careful!