In salute to Fela Kuti’s 79th birthday anniversary on Oct. 15, and to accompany the new Afropop Worldwide program, “Remembering Fela,” launched this week, “Best of The Beat” brings you a double feature from 1984, telling the story of Fela’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment on the eve of his departure from Lagos for his eagerly awaited first tour in the U.S.
Los Angeles Times’ veteran music critic Don Snowden was able to contact Fela in London for a phone interview just before he returned to Lagos to join his band for the ill-fated trip to the States. In “Fela’s Last Phone Call,” they discussed various aspects of Fela’s music, career and philosophies.
Shanachie Records’ chief Randall Grass gives a succinct synopsis of the events following his detention in “Still Suffering.” As it turned out, the Egypt 80 band was allowed to leave Nigeria for the concert tour, but without Fela, who remained behind charged with currency violations, as well as unauthorized criticism of the government, and subsequently sentenced to five years imprisonment. His son Femi took the reins in lieu of Fela, and the group was able to continue on to perform in Los Angeles, Berkeley, CA, and New York.
Don’t miss the rarely seen historical photos provided to The Beat by Sandra Isidore.