Monday, October 17, 2005

Glastonbury 2005, part nine: it's not just for Whitey


Glastonbury's audience is a tad Caucasian, but the music and stuff on offer is a bit more multiethnic and stuff. In fact, there is an entire Jazz World Stage for people who like jazz or musicians from the world. And it had The Levellers playing at it, as I discovered while walking past one day. They are pretty whitey, but they still seemed to fit. For a band whose moment was over ten years ago, they still sound surprisingly on the ball.

I also saw a bit of music by this Ilhan Al-Madfai fellow. He is a chap from Iraq who plays acoustic guitar with a band who use both Western and Arabic instruments. At the end of the day, I failed to see the point of him. Why play acoustic guitar when you come from an oud playing culture, eh? And if his guitar playing is as amazing as the programme claimed, why was it buried so low in the mix?

On the last night a load of us finished the festival with afro-beat sensations Femi Kuti & The Positive Force. I do not know how Afro-Beat fits into the the rock & roll family tree. Did it develop more or less independently of western music, bar the pulling in of instruments, or is it an African re-appropriation of jazz and funk? In any case, Femi Kuti makes music to which you have to dance. The lyrics tend towards covering very specific Nigerian concerns that often go straight over whitey's head. I, however, felt like I was back in my Introduction to West African Politics course. Some of the lyrics did seem a bit strange stripped of their context - wearing a jimmyhat while you shag isn't quite such a matter of life and death when your country doesn't have a 40% HIV infection rate.

It is not clear how Femi Kuti squares his right-on politics with the presence of the lovely lady dancers in his band.

Does anyone know if Afro-Beat is a uniquely Nigerian phenomenon, or did something similar emerge in other countries in that part of the world?

part nine of nine - that's all folks. Or go back to the start here.


Andrew Sherman said...

OK I know I'm a bit late here. As far as I can tell Afro-Beat is American pop (especially James Brown) filtered through an African experience. Fela even lived in the US for a while.

ian said...

It sounds un-american.

The musical link I am interested in is whether al the jangly guitar blokes from Africa that Peel used to play in the late 1980s/early 1990s had ever heard anything by the Smiths.

Andrew Sherman said...

I remember John peel playing the Bhundu Boys and King Sunny Ade. My personal opinion is that these groups may not have heard the Smiths but they had heard plenty of western pop, including possibly the Byrds. Whenever I hear authentic African music that is not influence by western pop my ears are bored. I did a class on Latin-American music and the same thing happened: the authentic stuff is just too hard to hear, it doesn’t get good until the popular music era.