PRINT December 2010

Music: Best of 2010

Femi Kuti

Cover of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew (40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition) (Sony Legacy, 2010).

1 John Coltrane Quartet, The Complete 1962 Copenhagen Concert (Domino Jazz) Coltrane is my inspiration. He just got better and better in the 1960s the more he played, maybe because he kicked heroin in the late ’50s. To me he remains a total genius.

2 Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Sony Legacy) My father had a copy of Bitches Brew but it went missing, so what a joy to find it remastered (the new Legacy edition also includes a DVD of a previously unreleased 1969 concert in Copenhagen). Miles was so cool—not only his music but his fashion, his attitude, everything, even four decades later.

3 Tiken Jah Fakoly, African Revolution (Barclay/Universal) He carries a political message and speaks out against the injustices committed against his people (of Côte d’Ivoire) and those of other countries, just like I do and my father did.

4 FIFA World Cup South Africa What a crowd, what a great venue—it was a day to remember. I opened for the Cup. It was great to see it being staged in Africa for the first time. And I watched a few of the games (although Nigeria didn’t do that well . . . ).

5 Hugh Masekela When I was in South Africa, I got to meet many antiapartheid heroes, including the great jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela. He gave me his new album, Phola—among other things, the word means “to get well, to heal.” After all these years, he is still at the top of his game.

Tiken Jah Fakoly, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, June 2010. Photo: Philippe Bordas.

6 FELA! I went with my sister Yeni to see the musical on Broadway in New York (it’s now onstage in London). She found it so moving she cried. The production is truly extraordinary; the writers really understood my father’s struggle. In fact, the musical brought back many childhood memories of scenarios I’d forgotten.

7 The Shrine, Lagos The original Shrine that Fela created was burned down by government soldiers in 1977. We built the New Afrika Shrine in 2000 to replace it. The local police raided it in 2007, frightening off a lot of the local crowd. Still, it’s a place for everyday Nigerians to come and unwind, with local as well as international artists performing.

8 Nigeria’s fiftieth birthday Poverty remains widespread in Nigeria despite the huge amount of oil revenue. There is no electricity, health care is poor, the roads are bad, and the corruption is beyond imagination. There is one thing to celebrate, though: fifty years of independence.

9 Africa Express This concert series, held in A Coruña, Galacia, Spain this year, is about creating a higher profile for African artists and enabling Western artists to learn from them. A crowd of 10,000 attended the version at the Shrine in Lagos in 2008, which included Baaba Maal, Amadou & Mariam, and Tony Allen. The Western artists at the Shrine included Franz Ferdinand, Damon Albarn, and Reverend and the Makers.

10 Glastonbury Festival, June 25, 2010, Pilton, UK What a place, what a venue, so many people. And the crowd went wild when I performed with my band Positive Force.

Femi Kuti is an Afrobeat musician and son of the legendary Fela Kuti. His tour of Europe, including the UK, will continue through the end of 2010. His new album, Africa For Africa (Wrasse), was released last month.

For Bjorn Copeland, Masami Akita, and Eszter Balint's music picks of 2010, pick up the December issue of Artforum.