FELA! Returns to L.A. + KCRW Remembers Fela Kuti [Tour Dates]

Los Angeles radio station KCRW profiles Fela Kuti through a 1986 interview with the afrobeat pioneer, while FELA! The Musical comes back to LA later this month.

Back by popular demand, FELA! The Musical is making a second round of appearances in Los Angeles, prompting legendary L.A. radio station KCRW to dig in their audio crates for some vintage Fela Kuti interview clips to commemorate the event. In 1986, KCRW's Tom Schnabel (pictured above) profiled the afrobeat pioneer, but the interview was two years delayed due to Fela's arrest at the Lagos Airport on trumped-up currency violation charges prior to departing for the United States. It was his 451st court appearance in ten years. When he finally arrived back in Los Angeles after serving a partial sentence, Kuti took to the KCRW airwaves to discuss the incident:

"The whole thing of the government then was that people like me should be incarcerated, that was the policy then." - Fela Kuti

Schnabel also fondly recalls a Fela Kuti performance at the Greek Theater (or was it the Wadsworth? asks the author - such details are hard to keep track of when recalling a legacy as large as The Black President's) where Fela's bevy of wives — 27 to be exact — took to the stage in a clothed display of their, shall we say, "assets." Visionary musician, activist, troublemaker — Fela was all of those, but perhaps was none more than a lover of the female form. Never one to conform to institutional pressures from society, Fela explained to Schnabel why he felt marriage imposed upon his personal freedom (peep the chuckle in response to his wives possibly exercising that same freedom).

Stream a few interview clips below and head over to KCRW's Rhythm Planet blog to read/listen to the rest of Tom Schnabel's heartfelt and thoughtful remembrance of Fela Kuti. FELA! will be in Los Angeles once again from April 26 - May 5. Grab your tickets below.

>>>FELA! at the Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles [TICKETS]

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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