Music Is the Weapon | Chicago Reader

Music Is the Weapon

Fela Anikulapo Kuti is probably the best-known African musician of all time, and this 1982 documentary by Stephane Tchal-Gadjieff does little to dispute his self-proclaimed status as the Black President. In the early 70s the Nigerian developed Afrobeat, a chugging dance style heavily influenced by the funk of James Brown, but even as his fame grew he rebuffed luxury, remaining in the Lagos slum where he was raised. His scathing criticism of the Nigerian government landed him in jail several times, and the military police launched brutal attacks on his family compound, killing his mother. Kuti's ego was equal to his talent, but Tchal-Gadjieff never questions his story or his practices—in a 1978 ceremony he married all 27 of his female singers and dancers in one fell swoop, and in 1997, after years of dismissing condoms as a white man's plot, he died of AIDS-related illness. Interviews are combined with footage of scorching performances shot at his longtime club, the Shrine. In French with subtitles. 53 min.


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