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Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway Paperback – July 4, 2003

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Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway + Fela: This Bitch of a Life + Fela: The Life And Times Of An African Musical Icon
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1st edition (July 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403962103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403962102
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti became a global superstar in the 1970s with his "Afrobeat" fusion of funk, jazz and Yoruba motifs. A counter-cultural icon, he scandalized Nigerian society with his pot-smoking, his sexually explicit lyrics and stage act, and his marriage to 27 of his dancers and back-up singers at once. And he was a staunch opponent of the Nigerian dictatorship and Western neo-colonialism in Africa (one song denounced water and electricity shortages, the United Nations Special Program for Third World Countries and the replacement of food crops by cash crops), a stance that earned him a series of beatings and imprisonments. This collection of essays and interviews explores the larger-than-life persona of Fela and his impact on world music and Nigerian culture. Joseph Patel posits Fela's music as the "primordial mass" from which house, techno and hip-hop sprang, tracing his influence through the minutiae of never-released recording sessions. John Collins gives a disturbing glimpse of life at Fela's Lagos commune, where he regularly had his acolytes beaten, while dele jegede paints a vivid portrait of the singer's charismatic stage presence. Yomi Durotoye applies heavy-handed critical theory to Fela's political lyrics (the line "Notin special about uniform" achieves "the obliteration of the space between the binary oppositions of domination"). The most interesting essays debate Fela's oft-expressed opinion that authentic African women are subservient to men, a view vigorously contested by Nkiru Nzegwu, who notes the traditional independence of Nigerian women. While the collection leaves open the question of whether drugs, sex and Afrobeat contribute to a coherent world-view, it provides a fascinating window onto the cultural politics of the developing world. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"...the book's diversity of perspectives is part of what makes it click."-Malcolm Venable, Black Issues Book Review
"...a fascinating window onto the cultural politics of the developing world."--Publishers Weekly Annex, 7/21/03
"Fela Anikulapo Kuti was James Brown, Huey Newton, Rick James, Bob Marley Duke Ellington and ODB all rolled up in one black African fist. The protest artist as a real live, awake and hungry human being. Africa's original rock superstar. The importance vitality and power of his work can not be overestimated. A pure blend of ancestry and modern marvel . If you don't know about Fela you surely need to find out now...!" -- Mos Def
“An amazing compendium of work about the seminal 20th century African musical icon and activist.” --Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, author of Willow Weep for Me
“This is an excellent collection of articles on FELA, it gives so many angles for us to understand one of the most crucial African figures of this age.” -- Angelique Kidjo
"This book is a trippy excursion into the world of conscious hero and musical icon Fela Kuti -- a must-read for all music lovers and people who care about the history and future of Africa and Africans around the world." -- Ahmir 'uestlove Thompson, The Roots

More About the Author

Trevor Schoonmaker is the Chief Curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Before moving to Durham, NC in 2006, he was an independent curator in New York City. From 1999-2005 he was the director of the Fela Project, a multimedia project on the influence of Fela Kuti. In 2001 he co-founded Jump n Funk with Rich Medina, New York's first Fela-inspired club night.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Afrobeat is a marriage of funk and jazz mixed with Yoruba and Highlife music. Considered the father of the Afrobeat style, Fela Anikulapo Kuti is as famous for his music as his personal life. These essays investigate his life, his art and his legacy, including the controversial issues.
Knox Robinson explores the cult of Fela as it exists today, Mabinuori Idowu recounts the key events in the life of the legend and Joseph Patel discusses Fela's influence on hip hop and dance music. In her first of two essays, Vivien Goldman looks at his spiritual life and in the second she writes about the visual aspects of his world, like fashion, dance etc.
There are also interviews with Fela's son Femi (by Jerome Sandlarz) and an interview with Fela from 1983 by Barney Hoskins. A 1977 diary of John Collins that he kept while acting in the film Black President is included. Other contributors include Delede Jegede who writes about cultural aspects of Lagos and Ghariokwu Lemi, the artist who designed Fela's album covers.
The book concludes with an index and a Fela Timeline from his birth in 1938 to the latest related events in 2003 after his death in the late 1990s. There are 11 color photographs and about 30 black and white ones. The many illustrations include cartoons and a map of Nigeria.
This is a great book that illumines the life and work of this fascinating Nigerian musician and counterculture hero. His lyrics are quoted extensively but there is no systematic rating or reviews section for his albums. The inclusion of a discography would certainly have enhanced the book, especially as a reference source.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SunscreenAl on May 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of essays about Fela's history in music and politics. It also contains information about his lifestyle, which was unique, to say the least. The perspectives are so varying that one can't help but conclude that he was enigmatic, sometimes brilliant and other times misleading or delusional.

Fela's music was introduced to me 20 years ago by a roommate from Ghana. I was lucky enough to see Fela in concert. He was incredibly charismatic and his music took over the unsuspecting audience at The Greek Theater in L.A. I didn't know he'd been tortured when I saw that concert, but it makes sense to me now, after seeing the fierceness with which he carried himself. The man had a Muhammed Ali type confidence that he backed up with an incredible show.

My goal in buying this book was to learn more about the man. After reading these essays, I was delightfully puzzled and realized that nobody really understood him--I wonder if he understood himself. Regardless, his music was groundbreaking and remains unique. It's still fresh.
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By Brian Felhandler on September 26, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. Gildersleeve on September 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I looked forward to this book. I have several Fela recordings and know somewhat about his never less then interesting life. I could not get pass the 1/2 way point in this book. The author is such a fan that his judgement was clouded by nothing but praise and affection. There is absolutely no balance what so ever in this bio. Having read what I did you would think that Fela invented everything in music and is the second coming of Christ. I regret buying this and don't say I did not warn you. Maybe Hollywood's bio pic may bring notice to Fela for his real accomplishments. Bot perhaps that will be another botched attempt like this book.
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