Slotted alongside crowd-pleasing acts like Tom Petty, Atmosphere and Switchfoot, Nigerian-born Afrobeat superstar Femi Kuti took the stage Friday at 10 p.m. on the Johnson Controls World Soundstage.
While the size of the crowd in attendance couldn’t compete with some of the other big name artists performing, the small yet dedicated audience was likely treated to one of the highlights of Summerfest.
The son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Femi created his own band and musical identity in the late 1980s and has since garnered the respect and recognition as a phenomenal musician and bandleader that exists independently of his father’s accomplishments.
The rotating group of musicians that backs him is known as "The Positive Force," and the most recent incarnation brought an energy and attitude to the stage that put fans and festival attendees into a trance. The band emerged in sections.
The drummer, bassist, keyboard player and guitarist emerged first and immediately laid down a driving Afro groove that set the mood for the evening. A horn section that featured two saxophonists and trumpet player emerged next and they stepped into sync flawlessly as the layered polyrhythms expanded into frenzy.
Following the horn section came three dancers/backup singers in heavy blue and white makeup and exposed mid drifts. They moved with a deep sense of rhythm and intense understanding of the musical environment that they were expressing with their bodies. Finally, Femi walked out onto the stage carrying a trumpet and two saxophones. He picked up the microphone and fell into a deeply engaging melodic theme that contrasted in a perfectly engineered syncopation with the polyrhythmic foundation that had been laid down by the rest of the band.
Drawing heavily from their most recent album, "No Place for My Dream," Femi lead the group of musicians through an acrobatic set of complex yet deeply soulful songs. Clocking in at just under two hours, the set proved the grou…Read more...