News Column

Afreeka fiesta will highlight Fela's music

October 11, 2013


Oct. 11--Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti midwifed Afrobeat from a fusion of jazz, funk, psychedelic rock and traditional chants and rhythms.

Today, the music's polyrhythms percolate throughout jazz and the music of everyone from David Byrne and Paul Simon to Vampire Weekend. In 2009, the Jay-Z and Will Smith-backed "Fela!" ran on Broadway to critical acclaim and 11 Tony Award nominations.

Santa Feans can get a taste of that beat when the Afreeka Santa Fe Fiesta Fela opens in Railyard Park on Saturday. Multiple African bands will play Fela's music in a setting of African arts and crafts, dance and authentic food in a tribute to Fela's artistic and human rights legacy.

"Fela was one of the most prominent artists to come out of Africa in modern times," festival artistic director and producer Kamajou Tadfor said. "He used his music and his life to fight for human rights."

The Santa Fe event marks the third festival of African art and culture in a city already renowned for its American Indian, folk art and Spanish markets.

The African musicians will include traditional African drummers Agalu, led by master drummer Akeem Ayanniyi.

"He started playing drums when he was 5 years old," Tadfor said. "He was the ninth generation in his family to play the drums."

The West African drum and dance ensemble Moria will perform traditional Ghanaian music. Dances from Morocco, Tunisia and North Africa will be provided by the Pomegranate Dance Company.

Some of the musicians will play songs composed by Fela; others will allude to him in their musical stylings, Tadfor said.

Inn at Loretto regular and singer/ songwriter Matthew Andrae will perform, as well the rockabilly Swank Brothers. Their guitarist Slash has often played with African bands, Tad-for said.

Jaka, an American band playing music from Zimbabwe, will bring the marimba and the African thumb piano to the festival.

Visitors can shop for arts and crafts at a re-creation of an African market offering weavings, pottery, carvings and paintings. The pace of traditional African markets differs from the American version, Tadfor said, as artists create works between sales. "In the villages of Africa, the market is you make one sale and you may wait 30 minutes for the next sale."

A children's tent will offer younger fans the chance to learn drumming as well as drum-making, painting, marimba playing, belly dancing and Afrobeat.

In 2011, the festival drew from 300 to 400 people. Turnout was about the same last year, Tadfor said.

"I've noticed the African population growing here," he explained. "There's a need to try to integrate them into the community."

Fela died in 1997 from AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. His music has flourished in a revival over the past decade. In 2009, Knitting Factory Records began re-releasing his catalog. This year, musician Thom Yorke cited Fela's music as a critical influence in forming his Atoms for Peace supergroup. If you go

WHAT: Afreeka Santa Fe Fiesta Fela 2013 WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday WHERE: Railyard Park CONTACT: or 505-919-9194


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