Union Transfer


Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Little Giant & OkayAfrica Present

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Rich Medina

Mon, September 8, 2014

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA

$20.00 - $22.00

This event is all ages

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

1, 2, 3, 4… with a clenched fist and a blast of his alto-sax, Seun Kuti launches into ‘IMF’, the opening track on A Long Way To The Beginning – his tightest, most electrifying album yet. This time around no one escapes the Afrobeat warrior’s ire: not corrupt Nigerian leaders or sly western powers. Not bankers, corporate greedheads or any lying, cheating international mother***ker anywhere.

‘My people are coming for what’s ours,’ sings Kuti, 31, in his powerful, stentorian voice. ‘Going all out ‘cause it’s now or never, ‘breakin’ the chain, we gon’ sever…’

It’s been a struggle to get to now. There were those who criticized his decision to front his father’s band; who said it was arrogant, even hubristic, to try and fill his father’s shoes. This was never Seun’s aim: “Fela will always be Number One,” says the Lagos-based scion, who inherited the extraordinary Egypt 80 orchestra in 1997 when his father died.

“What I want is for young people in Africa to believe in Africa, to come together for Africa.” A smile. “What I want is to inspire change.”

And so Fela’s youngest child has full-steamed ahead with his own inimitable brand of Afrobeat: a sound as compelling as it was when Fela Anikulapo Kuti first fused jazz, funk and soul with highlife and other African rhythms - but with topical lyrics and contemporary influences giving it a modern twist. So far there have been two critically acclaimed albums: 2008’s Many Things and 2011’s From Africa With Fury: Rise.

With A Long Way To The Beginning, we’ve arrived where the journey starts.

“This is the beginning of the reign of Afrobeat music,” says Kuti. “Afrobeat is not just about being Fela’s son anymore. There are hundreds of bands playing Afrobeat around the world, from Australia to Israel to the US. What began with my father has become a global movement.” And A Long Way To The Beginning is at its vanguard. Co-produced by the Grammy-winning American jazz pianist Robert Glasper, the album features a clutch of young artists from the African diaspora – the singer Nneka, rappers M-1 of dead prez and Blitz the Ambassador. It’s a recording that lassos all the passion, adrenalin and searing truth of a Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 live show.

From the stage to the studio… never from the studio to the stage.

Here, then, are the kicking basslines, strong horn melodies and call-and-response hooks that have made Egypt 80 – led by saxophonist-turned-keyboard player Lekan Animashaun, 73 – the stuff of legend.

But here, too, is space. Longer intros and more instrumental parts serve to underline the lyrics, lend them more impact: ‘See young people marching down the street and they chanting,’ runs ‘Higher Consciousness’, a song Kuti wrote in support of popular uprisings, showcasing the power of Afrobeat to open minds and unglue eyes. Like ‘African Airways’ – whose lyrics highlight Kuti’s talent for biting satire – it’s a track with a shimmering, drawn-out intro.

Kuti composed with his future collaborators in mind, heeding the advice given to him by Brian Eno, his co-producer on Rise: “Brian is a musical genius,” he says with a grin. “He told me that if I really wanted to work effectively with other people then I had to give them the breathing room to express themselves. This meant that once we got into the studio, Robert [Glasper] was able to bring his own ideas to the music, and add more colour to the sound.”

All his guests share like minds and a common message. “I read an interview with M-1 where he said he’d like to work with me, so I hit him up on Twitter,” says Kuti, of the committed pan-Africanist whose scattergun commentary peppers ‘IMF’. “We have the same consciousness: he tries to speak for the majority and encourage them to develop themselves emotionally and mentally.”

Mutual friends in New York introduced Kuti to Blitz the Ambassador (“I liked his take on African hip hop and the message it should be portraying”); the Ghanaian-American spitter lends his vocals to ‘African Smoke’, a ferocious rallying cry on which Glasper also guests. Then there’s his friend, the German-Nigerian songbird Nneka, who delivers the lyrics of ‘Black Woman’ – a melodious paean to the women of the Motherland - in a voice both elevating and life-affirming.

“There’s a lot of propaganda about how all African men are sexist and I wanted to address that,” says Kuti,, who with Yetunde Ademiluyi, a singer and backing dancer in Egypt 80, recently became the first-time parent of a baby girl. “Nneka also represents what I’d love to see in young black female artists, in that she portrays herself as nature intended her to be.”

‘Black Woman’ also sees Kuti, name-checking strong female African personalities: Maya Angelou. Angela Davis. Nina Simone. His grandmother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a prominent civil rights campaigner (and the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car) - who died in 1978 after the Nigerian military threw her from a window during a raid on the Kalakuta Republic, her son Fela’s compound.

“I’m a member of a family that’s always been part of the struggle,” says Kuti,, who references his unconventional upbringing in the anthemic ‘Kalakuta Boy’. “But more and more there are educated African youth who understand the system, who know that they deserve to be respected as citizens, and to life peaceful lives as human beings. This frustration is coming to the boil.

“Bringing a child into this world has given me a kind of renewed energy to make sure I stand for change in Africa,” he continues. “I want her to grow up in an Africa that represents its people.”

Having long lost faith in the music industry – “Today it’s controlled by corporations who own the media, which then dictates what ‘good’ music is” – Kuti, is fighting the fight elsewhere. His weapons are fearsome: social media. Socio-political movements such as Occupy Nigeria and Change Movement Nigeria (http://www.changemovementng.org): “We are a group of young concerned Africans who believe that with personal effort and dedication we can make a difference, not by going crying to western countries for donations.”

Afrobeat is leading the charge: “This album is a soundtrack for the mindset of most young people in Africa today,” says Kuti, of A Long Way To The Beginning “As African youth we have to stand for what we want.”

So now look. Look at the Kalakuta Boy out the front of Egypt 80, the band that speaks for the common man in Africa and right around the world. See him strutting the stage stripped to the waist, his saxophone around his neck, the sweat of conviction on his brow. See those two words tattoo-ed across his back like wings: FELA LIVES.

“I have to believe that I am making Fela proud,” says Kuti,, whose shoes are one size larger than his father’s anyway. “Over the years the band has come back to its peak, to the place they were in when Fela was fronting them.”

He pauses, smiles. “And now,” he says, “we go forward.”

---Jane Cornwell
Rich Medina
Rich Medina
There are few nightclub DJs that have accomplished as much on a global scale as Rich Medina. From his humble beginnings as a young b-boy-turned-DJ in Lakewood, NJ, to his current status manning the decks as one of the most popular DJ's in Philadelphia NYC, Rich Medina has consistently taken multi- ethnic crowds on a sonic journey through hip-hop, house, Afrobeat, funk and soul, unearthing one musical gem after another, for almost 20 years.

Rich Medina cemented his name in the DJ world with his infamous 90's partnership with Cosmo Baker at The Remedy in Philadelphia. In 1998, his Fun party with DJ Language was part of turning the Lower East Side of Manhattan into the new hot spot for club life. Then came the mother lode, Lil' Ricky's Rib Shack, a weekly dance function that started out as a 20-person party at APT in 2001, and evolved into an irreplaceable mid-week NYC institution for over 8 years. There, he connected with fan and hip-hop legend Q-Tip in 2005, eventually combining forces to create the Friday night weekly called Open at the Andrew W.K.-owned Santos Party House in 2007, and was soon considered the hottest Friday night party in NYC for the next 2 years.
Rich introduced a new generation of people to Afrobeat music in 2001, with Jump N' Funk, the first and most consistent US dance party dedicated to the late African musical icon, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Rich and the Jump N' Funk brand recently traveled to San Francisco, LA, and Atlanta headlining Knitting Factory Records' Felabrations!, a nationwide series of events promoting the re-release of The Fela Kuti EMI Catalog.

No less revered is Rich's Happy Feet party -- where he and another pioneer of the turntables, Nuyorican DJ Bobbito Garcia have traded off dance, salsa, and soul music at clubs all around the world. Next of his branded events in line would be Props, the continuation of Li'l Ricky's since the closing of APT in March of 2010. In 2008, he also co-founded What The Funke, a James Brown/Fela Kuti tribute party with DJ Spinna.

In addition to his own events, Rich has performed in front of crowds of thousands, DJing shows with artists like Lauryn Hill, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, Seun Kuti, Tony Allen, Nathan Haines, Roy Ayers, Gil Scott- Heron, The Roots, Jill Scott, Antibalas, Zap Mama, and Femi Kuti, among many others. From NYC to LA to London to Tokyo, and everywhere in between, music lovers know not to miss a club night when Rich Medina is manning the decks.

Last summer, Rich was a cast member on the first ever DJ reality show, "Smirnoff's Master of the Mix", which aired on BET and Centric in the fall/winter of 2010.

Ever since then, it's been a whirlwind of gigs with Rich stepping up his already ridiculous tour schedule and moving on to new ventures in DJing, production, and journalism, among other multi-media endeavors. Stay tuned for the fallout from Rich's new efforts, and rest assured, his focus on DJing will always be the crown jewel of his creative career. After 20+ years as a professional disc jockey, Rich feels today that he's just coming into his own as an artist. With that, the future is extremely bright.
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123