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You think you know Fela, you have no idea!

10 Sep


dir. by Academy Award Winner Alex Gibney 

Out now in cinemas across the UK

Out of Africa review by Agnes Kuye


Finding Fela Dogwoof Documentary 6Finding Fela is a must see documentary depicting Fela Kuti’s life brilliantly narrated by family, friends, business associates and all who loved him. From Fela’s youth days growing up in church to performing with his band Koola Lobitos, Africa & 70 and then Egypt 80. Featuring fantastic unseen footage and visuals of  Fela on his spiritual and political music journey  through life .

Fela Kuti is an important part of Nigeria’s history often relentless and unafraid of his oppressors. A true man of the people, the more he was chastised the more powerful his music became. From the portrayal of the legendary  AFRO beat musician  it is easy to see he was 30/40 years ahead of his time.

Throughout the documentary I felt I was on an emotional roller coaster  often comical, immensely  sad at times, angry but mostly empowered and  proud .

There are some great narrations from Seun, Yeni & Femi kuti, Ghariokwu  Lemi, Rick Stein, Tony Allen, Dele Sosimi, Sandra Izsadore and many  more.

Finding Fela Dogwoof Documentary 7AFRO beat is protest music, we all know this but Finding Fela gives you true meaning  to when, where and why  these iconic songs were birthed.

I am a die hard Fela fan and I was amazed at this in-depth,  powerful  and profound film.

MUSIC IS FOR REVOLUTION!!!  The long list of FELA’s music documented in the film can make any musician feel inadequate. Classical African music is my preferred terminology for Fela Kuti’s music as revealed  in the film.

Fela is our Hero and Legend, the greatest musician to come out of AFRICA.

You don’t have to be a Fela fan or even know Fela’s music to see this film. MUSIC  IS THE WEAPON

Fela Kuti – Reference Links



Asabaako Music Festival – crowdfunding campaign

3 Nov

Asabaako Music Festival, Ghana

On 23rd October 2011, the Asabaako Music Festival team launched an ambitious crowdfunding campaign to use the power of the crowd and social media to raise funding and support to create; one of the most inspiring and inclusive music festivals in the World, that exposes the exciting new sounds of Africa, empowers artists and is a haven for amazing music from around the world in Africa.

In this blog, we find out more about this festival, from the organisers, and why you should back this campaign.

Their crowdfunding campiagn ends on 11th November. If you love what they’re doing and want to find out more about their campaign, please visit this link –

The Asabaako Music Festival is taking place this year from 2nd – 4th December on Busua Beach, Western Ghana. Visit the official festival website and facebook page for more info.

What is the Asabaako Music Festival?

It’s something very different! A combination of Ghanaian, wider-African and African-inspired music, live performances and soundsystems, in a truly spectacular African setting amongst wonderful people in Ghana.

Name three of the amazing tracks that will be pumping out at the festival?

To give three tracks could be a little restricting on the variation you’ll hear. Expect a lot of afrobeat, hip life, high life, coupe decale, and music old and new from around Africa, alongside hip hop, funk, house and jazz with an African twist. But as a little taster:

Sarkodie – You Go Kill Me

Fela Kuti – It’s Not Possible

Mos Def – Mathematics

What was the first edition of the festival like?

Experimental! And the experiment seemed to work as it felt like the start of something very special. We featured unsigned local talent alongside bigger International known Ghanaian artists like Wanlov the Kubolor and Yaa Pono. UK DJs Guynamite and Breakplus. The festival attracted 2,000 people mainly from Accra and Takoradi and was a great mix-up of people.

What inspired you to start the festival?

A desire to use the skills we had to do something different and something positive in Africa. Ghana is so far from what the Western media has fed us of Africa’s poverty and political unrest, and this is an opportunity to show just that.

Who would be your dream artist/artists to book for the festival?

Once the festival is more developed we’d love to see the likes of Talib Kweli, Nneka, The Roots, Mos Def, Wunmi but then also anything from Naija stars D’Banj, to South African House DJ Black Coffee, to Afrobeat legend Tony Allen – the possibilities are mouth-wateringly endless.

Why Busua Beach?

It’s difficult to explain without experiencing this place. Busua is a small fishing village-come-tourist resort, which people visit for the weekend and end up staying in for weeks. It’s a truly unique, magical place, even when nothing is happening. So imagine what happens when we throw a village party…

Who’s headlining this year?

We’re still setting the vibe for this festival so it will be largely underground artists from Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. But there are a few bigger name Ghanaian artists who are into what we’re doing and may make a little appearance. Our DJ support from abroad also includes the likes of T-Roy (Broadcite Records London), Rita Ray (BBC/Shrine UK) and Benjamin Lebrave (Akwaaba Music US) adding that international African appeal.

What makes Asabaako special?

The vibe, which comes from the location. It’s an overload of senses you never even knew you had.

How did the festival get started?

A conversation at a warehouse party in London around early 2009. Before you know it we’d quit our jobs and flown to Ghana on a one-way ticket. Very surreal.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Quitting our jobs and flying to Ghana on a one-way ticket…!

Africa Unsigned arrives in the UK

13 Jul

Africa Unsigned is one of the newest platforms breaking African musicians onto the global music scene. It arrived in the UK last month, and has everyone on the UK African music scene talking. We wanted to find out more, so we met with the founder, Pim Betist, who told us what African Unsigned is,  the artists they support and the music that inspires them. Read on….

Interview with Pim Betist, Founder of Africa Unsigned

What is the song that moves your soul?

Fela Kuti “Water No Get Enemy”

List three African musicians/bands/groups that impress you the most.

Oliver Mtukudzi

Femi Kuti

Afrikan Boy

What is Africa Unsigned?

Africa Unsigned uses crowdfunding to record, promote and distribute music played by a selection of unsigned African musicians.

Fans who have signed up to the website can make a donation to become a ‘supporter’ of the artist. All artists are encouraged to set themselves targets of between $1000 – $10,000 for crowd funding and once this is reached, they are offered an opportunity to either record tracks in a studio, record video clips, invest in a tour or even buy new equipment. Supporters then receive music and rewards, which can include items such as free gig tickets or exclusive content.

What makes Africa Unsigned so great?

The unique way of connecting with the musicians and their music. Supporting an artist creates a connection that is different than adding a friend on facebook. Your pound accumulates to a substantial amount which has a serious impact on the artist’s career.

What motivated you to start Africa Unsigned?

Before I started Africa Unsigned I created SellaBand, a European based online crowd funding label. SellaBand had already seen more than $3 million invested in unsigned talent and around 50 artists crowd funded $50,000 to record and release their first albums.

I wanted to move more towards music closer to my heart and I was inspired by a Jamaican taxi driver who couldn’t join Sellaband due to a lack of recording facilities and internet access. I chose to focus on the African continent because of the diversity of African music and abundance of highly talented artists.

How long has Africa Unsigned being going?

We’ve been going for a year and have crowdfunded around $30.000. We released our first album on 23rd June 2011, by Kenyan soul and gospel singer Neema.

What has been one of your biggest challenges for Africa Unsigned and what have you learnt?

The cultural differences. The most important lesson I have learned is to always take the time to understand each other’s back ground and culture before jumping to conclusions or pushing for results.

List three African musicians/bands/groups we should be keeping our eyes out for?


Rina Mushonga

Jack Nkanga

Africa Unsigned is coming to the UK – tell us more about what you’re hoping to achieve?

Up until now we have only been focusing on African artists who live and work in Africa. From now on we will also be welcoming African artists based in the UK. We are in search of The New African Sound and we believe it is present both in Africa and amongst artists in the diaspora.

And finally, what would be your single message of advice for musicians in Africa?

My advice to artists in general is that good things take time. It makes no sense to adapt to what you assume to be in demand. Stay true to your music.

Wanlov at Rich Mix – Review

14 Jun

Photograph by Iamthenublack

When only five of 15 musicians can play a gig because the others have had their visa applications denied for a festival that bills itself as helping you “discover the world and cross borders through music,” there’s a sad irony to it all. But one man’s border control is another man’s laissez passer.

On Tuesday 7 June, Ghanaian musician Wanlov the Kubolor took to the stage at the Rich Mix. Once the third act in a three band show, now headlining. The other bands – Kenya’s Winyo and Belo from Haiti, we’re told, are stuck in Italy, unable to gain access to the UK.

So it’s left to the self-professed ‘African Gypsy’ to entertain the crowd – and did he ever.

His motley crew take to the stage first: there’s a tall, thin and clean-shaven Frenchman on accordion, an Italian/Transylvanian fiddler – fairly squat and heavily bearded – and a Ghanaian on the Cajo drum. Let’s just say I wouldn’t have made him out to be a musician. Then appears the glue that holds them all together. Wanlov saunters onto the stage in a yellow and orange kikoi, what can only be described as a black tank top, a stripped tie and red plastic aviators. My senses are crying foul and not a single note has yet been played.

When the music does start, it’s an equally disorientating experience. You’re never quite within your comfort zone. Genres that shouldn’t work together are woven into the same lyrical tale. It is part Lagbaja, part Gogol Bordello. But when I start to think this is a ride I need to get off, the drum kicks in and I’m back to bobbing my head to the rhythm, cursing myself for being so fickle, cursing the artist for being so darn brilliant.

Wanlov walks this fine line between the audacious and the absurd expertly. He takes his audience on trust and on a strong beat just far enough into alien territory then reels them back in again…until, just when you think it’s safe, he starts singing about squirrels. And about how to hit on girls – devoutly religious girls, Romanian girls, all girls.

But you’d be foolish to dismiss Wanlov on his appearance or his sense of humour. He is a consummate entertainer and an incredibly sensitive and intelligent musician. Throughout the gig, the pace builds and builds and each musician is given time to shine. This is music for music lovers. And before you get the chance to pigeon-hole him lyrically, he performs For the River, a song about pollution in Ghana’s rivers and Human Being, a beautifully melodic tune about being a global citizen.

By the end of the concert, I’m reeling. In one last act of generosity, perhaps for the audience, perhaps for his own amusement, he calls his friend and other half of the Fokn Bois crew M3nsa (well, what he actually says is: “man like menstruation”) on to the stage for an amped up version of Kelewele Pimping. The performance is infectious and ridiculous and I am left wanting more.

But it’s time to go and before he leaves, Wanlov gives a “special shout out to the visa control office.” And I am inclined to agree with him. Had the authorities not refused entry to the others, I may never have heard Wanlov and M3nsa sing the grammatically and politically incorrect “thank God I’m not a Nigerians,” among other delights.

Eliza Anyangwe is a freelance writer at the Guardian and blogs at Product of my past

Review – M3NSA at the Shrine

9 May

Friday 29 April, MOBO-nominated rapper, M3NSA headlines the Afrocentric Rebel night ‘The Shrine’ at Rich Mix.

Playing to an intimate crowd (already buzzing after having watched the pidgin language musical Coz ov Moni,  featuring M3nsa himself and his FOKN Bois collaborator and friend Wanlov) the Ghanaian musician and his band The Light Offs, showcase tracks from his latest studio album, No.1 Mango Street.

The set is engaging and the musical influences diverse: pictures of his friends and family are projected onto the screen while the artist raps and sings over infectious beats infused with hip hop, highlife and rock. He plays call and response games with his audience, catches eyes, throws smiles and has a young lady on the front row swooning as he raps a verse to her. When he eventually turns back to the band, still beside herself, the girl mouths to me: “Thank God black don’t blush!”

But it’s not just the girls who are swept up. As the rapper launches into Kelewele Pimpin, the party-piece of the night, a rather dapper looking man stood next to me looses all composure and starts doing what I can only describe as yelping. I’m convinced that by the end of the night,  people will be throwing themselves onto the stage.

And that’s what makes M3nsa an artist to watch and a perfect fit for a night that tries to evoke the spirit of Fela Kuti’s Shrine: he’s a master lyricist with charm to match, a rocking band and beats that transport you to a place where the only agenda is to party.

No.1 Mango Street is available on iTunes and Amazon

Review written by blogger and freelance writer Eliza Anyangwe. 

For the people by The Shrine

27 Apr

The Shrine: “Republican Yell Session!”
(Live Music and Film screening)

The Shrine marks the royal wedding day with the “Republican Yell Session”, for the people by The Shrine people at the Rich Mix in East London. The jewel in the crown of this event, is a headline set from Ghana’s number one Soul ‘n’ Hip-Life beat maker, M3NSA, and his band, The Light Offs.

As a very special treat they will be screening the short film Coz Ov Moni featuring M3NSA himself.

Date: Friday, 29th April 2011
Time: 7.30pm -1am
Tickets: £5 advance | £7 at the door
Venues: Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA

RUBY & THE VINES to support MUNTU VALDO Album Launch

11 Apr

On 18th April – Out of Africa and Afro-Pop Live in association with Serious presents Muntu Valdo album showcase of ‘The one and the Many’

If you came to the last Out of Africa Live event with M3NSA and BUMI THOMAS, you know that this is an event not to miss!

Ruby & The Vines are set to open Muntu’s album showcase in Hoxton with an infectious cocktail of funk, jazz and beats:  Fronted by vocalist/bassist Binisa Bonner with guitarist Greg Sanders and drummer Ben Assiter, this hotly tipped trio present a cosmopolitan blend of influences as diverse as Congolese roots music, afro-beat, jazz and reggae, delivering their set with soulful vocal melodies and an unfalteringly meticulous groove.

Muntu’s album ‘The one and The Many’ is now out on release – get your copy now on Amazon!

Book your tickets now to the album showcase, as they are going fast!

Date: 18th April 2011
2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU
Time: 7.30pm
£5 adv / £8 door

Check the Out of Africa Live page for more gig details.


See you all there!

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