Inside Midsummer Night Swing: Femi Kuti with Sahr Ngaujah and Jill Vallery of FELA!

Field Report: Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing with Femi Kuti & Positive Force, Sahr Ngaujah and Jill Vallery of FELA! 7/12/2010.

Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing wrapped up their 22nd season this month, bringing together the intertwined cultures of music and dance in a highly diverse series that covered swing, salsa, tango, bhangra and disco.  If you haven't been to Midsummer Night Swing before, the evening begins with a dance lesson on the dedicated dance floor, moves into a DJ set and ends with a performance by an artists associated with the style of the evening.

I created this multimedia piece combining photography and field audio to bring you inside the experience:

Building on the success of FELA! on Braodway and the heightened awareness for the music of Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti, Lincoln Center put together a wonderful show with Fela's son, Femi Kuti and his band Positive Force. Jill Vallery, dance captain and cast member if FELA! began the dance instruction, teaching 8-bar sequences of Afrobeat moves.  Amayo, frontman of New York's own Antibalas was there to assist. Sahr Ngaujah, the star of FELA! continued the lesson with his break-down of the 'underground spiritual game', showing how to shake the hips in coded patterns. As the evening started to warm up, Sahr and friends came down to the dance floor, and soon FELA! cast members and audience alike were dancing together and trading moves in the middle of a large enraptured circle.  Rich Medina was on hand to provide the music.

Femi Kuti & Positive Force took the stage with dancers, a large horn section and rhythm section for an extended set. Femi has his own unique style, it is brighter, slightly more frantic and improvisatory. But at the core he is his father's inheritor, bringing political critique and positive messages and leading the ensemble while moving between singing, keyboard, alto sax and trumpet.

Also in recent African Music News:

Fela's original drummer, Tony Allen played (le) Poisson Rouge (photos)

Baaba Maal played SummerStage (photos)

LPR Report: Tony Allen and Ahmed Janka Nabay

Afrobeat legend Tony Allen, who helped invent the genre as the powerhouse drummer for Fela Kuti, was in town last week for a few performances. He played an intimate late night set as part of Rich Medina's Jump N Funk series. His Afrobeat Orchestra composed of mostly younger players was strong and tight and they grooved their set along til past 2 AM.

Sierra Leone born Ahmed Janka Nabay performed a great warm up set of 'Bubu Music' - a style comprised of twitchy fast poly-rhythmic drums (played here on a synthetic kit, which sounded fine) with looping figures in the bass and guitar. Over, or more within, this sound scape, Nabay weaves a song-speak narrative with a response from the band.  It was a great, eye opening show, I really enjoyed it. Nabay has a 12" 45 rpm EP out on True Panther which I picked up and have been digging.

10.06.17 Tony Allen + Ahmed Janka Nabay - Images by Jacob Blickenstaff