UPR!SE is a blog dedicated to The Shrine's Patron Saint and inspiration, Fela Anikulpo Kuti.

The blog focuses on music, fashion, art, design, politics and culture. It is a celebration of trailblazing souls who rise up without compromise.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FELABRATION!: A Celebration of the Legacy of Fela Kuti

Wednesday August 4
10pm - 2am - No Cover
The Shrine - 2109 South Wabash Avenue - Chicago, IL 60616-1781 - (312) 753-5700 - www.theshrinechicago.com

DJs: Tone B Nimble & King Scratch (aka Joe Bryl) - Hosts FM Supreme & Genevieve Honorico

To celebrate the legacy and influence of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, pioneer of Afrobeat and political maverick, The Shrine (2109 S. Wabash) is hosting FELABRATION! on Wednesday, August 4 to commemorate his death on August 2, 1997. Born in Nigeria in 1938, Fela went to London in 1958 to study medicine, but instead shifted his attention toward music; forming the band Koola Lobitos which played a fusion of jazz and highlife. Returning to Nigeria and playing under the direction of Victor Olaiya and his All Stars, Fela went to Ghana where he developed his ideas on Afrobeat further. He then continued his travels to the U.S. where his political awakening was broadened by the Black Power Movement. Renaming his band Nigeria '70, he recorded in L.A. in 1969 and returned to Nigeria to combine his developing Afrobeat style with political and social ideals based on Pan-Africanism, human rights and socialism. Fela set up a nightclub in the Empire Hotel, named the Afro-Spot and then the Afrika Shrine (the name where The Shrine derives), where he performed and honed his style.

His music with its harsh critiques on the Nigerian government and military set off a vicious attack on his commune, the Kalakuta Republic. Fela was severely beaten, his elderly mother was thrown from a window, the commune was burned down to the ground, his studio destroyed and all master tapes where lost. Fela responded by delivering his mother's coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos and recorded two songs, "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Soldier" telling the story worldwide. He formed his own political party, which he called Movement of the People, put himself up for election for the Presidency (which was refused) and continued recording and touring. His music continued developing with its fusion of interlocking melodies, a seemingly endless groove ladened with a driving horn section, a call and response chorus that drives both African rhythms and American spirituals. Fela's showmanship, like that of James Brown, seemed energized beyond normal boundaries and often performed songs live that lasted at least 45 minutes each.

Sadly, Fela passed away over a decade ago due to AIDS which still devastates much of Africa. His funeral at the Shrine was attended by over a million visitors. However, since his death, the legacy of Fela has grown astronomically with re-releases of his immense catalogue, the production of the Broadway Tony Award winning musical Fela!, numerous Fela-related art shows and a new generation of Afrobeat bands who continue expanding the sound of Afrobeat (e.g. Antibalas, Nomo, and Chicago Afrobeat Orchestra).

To pay proper tribute to Fela, The Shrine will host a special FELABRATION! that will cover his musical career, artists who have worked collaboratively with him (Roy Ayers, Ginger Baker, Tony Allen) and all those who presently carry his musical message further. DJs are Tone B Nimble & King Scratch (aka Joe Bryl) who head the weekly UPR!SE weekly event. There is no cover for the event.

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