Fela! The Concert | The Long Center for the Performing Arts

When Afrobeat Was Born — Fela! The Concert Celebrates Its Founding Father

The story of Fela Kuti and the invention of a new sound.

It’s no exaggeration to say Afrobeat is one of the most influential genres of music in the last 100 years. Invented in the 1970s through a combination of African and American musical styles, it influenced the musical landscape the world over and continues to be heard today in genres like hip-hop, R&B and even modern pop, electronic and club music.

In 1966 Fela Kuti — the founding father of Afrobeat — was floored by the stylistic innovation of James Brown’s soul music. Everybody was playing it, but he longed for something more than just imitation. A talented multi-instrumentalist in his own right, it was through Kuti’s experiments combining pan-African rhythms with other African-American musical forms (such as jazz and funk) that Afrobeat was born. A new and exciting sound that remained distinctly African, its influence can be heard in the 1970s and ’80s music of Paul Simon, David Byrne and Brian Eno, as well as more contemporary acts like Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Beyoncé and Kanye West.

With a focus on changed vocals and percussive rhythms, Afrobeat bands tend to be large and can include western instruments like trumpets, saxophones, trombones, guitars (bass, tenor and rhythm), organs or keyboards, as well as more traditional African instruments like the conga, akuba and gbedu drums. A typical performance is high-energy and features long songs, extended instrumental breakdowns, and of course — plenty of dancing.

Fela! The Concert is one big Afrobeat dance party that all your friends will be talking about. Make sure you’re there, dancing along to the rhythms and sounds of this funky, influential musical genre March 26.

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