By Frederique Boute
(A concertgoers’ personal account)
It was my first encounter with Afrobeat music live on stage. I cannot compare Seun Kuti’s performance with Fela Kuti's concert as I never experienced one, but Seun’s at the Grand Performances in Los Angeles on July 15 was quite awesome.
The grandmother of one of my daughters’ friend heard his music on the radio and I took her and as well as my daughters to the concert. As soon as the music started, she was grooving! She is past 70 years old but was feeling the music like a young person. Her mother just turned 93 and can still go up and down the stairs by herself and move around the house. They have quite good genes. Her mother in the past rented rooms to Nigerian students studying at California Institute of Technology, CALTECH, and they were having parties at her house. She is therefore no stranger to good Nigerian music.
Whenever there are performances at California Plaza, the performers usually stay at the hotel right next to the Plaza. I believe Seun must have walked from the hotel to back stage with a cameraman filming his every step as at one point he walked down the stairs from where we were sitting.
There was a group of three women in front of him. I do not know if they were together, but it is the women I first noticed, as they looked Nigerian, then I noticed the young, tall, svelte Nigerian man close behind them with a tight shirt and even tighter pants. It took me a few seconds to recognize him. I believe most people did not recognize him as he was walking freely with a backpack tucked behind him like someone looking for a place to sit.
Kuti's music, either coming from the father or son as performed by the Egypt 80 band, is usually electrifying! The brass section and percussion section are so intricate and full of energy. Seun's deep, scratchy voice and dancing are quite unique. My older daughter was amazed at how he moves - arms very far back behind him with the torso bent. I loved it!
This is the second time I have seen such a crowd at the Plaza, the first was for an all-African performers event, Africa Fete 1999. The security service allowed people to be in all the alleys as such a huge crowd came. It was a little bit scary as the place was packed and people were drinking alcohol and some openly smoked weed. My younger daughter was highly upset at the smell of it. I was more concerned about an eventual fight starting, but hopefully it did not happen.
Seun and Egypt 80 performed after the allowed time of 10:00pm up to 10:45pm (there are residential buildings around and they can hear the music and crowd), another first. But even after it was over, people were not leaving. Because of my daughters and my friend, I had to go and we did so with no problems as the majority of the people were staying.
If I had been alone, I would have hung around where the CDs were sold and then in front of the hotel entrance to try to catch one of the musicians and then probably meet Seun. But not this time may be when they come back to UCLA in April 2012.
-Boute, a French-American culture and arts lover, lives in Los Angeles with her daughters