Fela biopic in 2011?

Fela Kuti

Getting back from Ghana, I’ve been listening to a LOT of Fela recently. because of that article on Byrne and Eno — and how they comped much of the Talking Heads’ output from Fela’s Afrodisiac — really put me on a tear for hearing more of his music.

I can’t say that I’ve ever heard a more physical performer than Fela on Afrodisiac.The closest comparison I can render are those late-night Time-Warner Claaiscs commercials featuring James Brown weeping to “Please Please Please”, but unlike that American stuff, this is entirely upbeat, danceable music — the vocals transcend the song as they become an soulful plea yo participate in the music.

His horn solos — specifically his saxophone efforts — are as good as anyone in the Blue Note stables during the ’60’s and ’70’s. Fela’s tenor is sometimes Booker Ervin, sometimes Wayne Shorter with a good measure of either Jackie McLean or Dolphy thrown in. Like Tina Brooks before him, Fela has no problem playing in the upper register when other musicians would instinctively switch to an alto.

Fela’s rhythm sections are always a big, groovy thing, the likes of which ex-Verve and Impulse producer Creed Taylor tried to bottle when he formed CTI Records. But American jazz-fusion died because of Taylor’s desire to steer the music in the direction of the period’s most popular music:disco.

Afro-Beat had none of those commercial imperatives — the help of Tony Allen, Fela was able to bottle the kind of jazz fusion that New York could only have dreamed of. I suspect that the success of the Kuti/Allen version of jazz-fusion had something to do with the African polyrhythms and a cool appreciation for the Hammond G3 — something largely absent from the legendary CTI recordings of the ’70’s.

I found a whole pile of his stuff at the Library including a copy of the short 1983 documentary made about him by Jean-Jacques Flori and Stéphane Tchalgadjieff, ‘Music is the Weapon‘ aka ‘Musique au poing‘ (1982).

I now hear that there’s a Fela biopic due in 2011. I favor either Chiwetel Ejiofor or Jeffrey Wright in the title role unless Wesley Snipes has some additional gifts that he hasn’t shared with the world.

Info on the Kuti biopic:

Fela Kuti Biopic In The Works
Focus Features Developing Biopic On Fela Kuti
The Untitled Fela Kuti Biopic


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