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Kuti, Klaasen’s music fill Grand Stand

By LEISELLE MARAJ Saturday, August 2 2014

HIS saxophone broke after an exuberant leap on stage at the end of his first song. But that did not stop Nigerian musician, Seun Kuti and his band, Egypt 80 from giving a high spirited performance at the Pan-African Spectacular on Thursday night. The concert was one of the highlights of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago’s (ESCTT’s) Emancipation celebrations for this year held at the Lidj Yasu Omawale Emancipation Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.

Kuti, who is the 31-year-old son of the musician/activist and founder of the Afrobeat rhythm, Fela Kuti, was one of the main acts of the night. Like father, like son: the message in his music was poignant enough as he spoke, through song, of the many social and political injustices faced by his people and those across the world but it was his profanity laced, “International M***** F***** (IMF)” that had the crowd going. That song, which is off of his new album, A Long Way to the Beginning, speaks of his frustration of what he perceives to be the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) failure to help the economical woes of Nigeria.

Before performing the song, he explained that he was aware that there are issues with the use of profanity in Trinidad and Tobago and as an African boy, he was taught to respect the rules of any home he was visiting. He said however, the song’s message could not be accurately brought across without using its name. He said his country’s president has a budget of $20,000US a day for his food while the ordinary citizen has to make do with $2US.

“When they come, they never suggest cuts against the rich, they are always looking at ways to take away from the poor,” he said. In the past, performances of international acts have been halted abruptly and performers fined for using obscene language.

Section 51 of the Summary Offences Act states: during the presentation or performance of any stage play or concert or other dramatic or musical entertainment, or of any other form of entertainment whatsoever, is indecently attired; performs any lewd or suggestive dancing or actions; or in any play, song, ballad or speech, uses language, or makes use of any recording, which is profane, indecent or obscene is liable to a fine of four hundred dollars.

Police officers at the show however made no move to stop the singer, who also used a few profanities while speaking to the audience after singing the song.

After an introduction from the leader of the Egypt 80 band, Kuti took to the stage a few minutes after 11pm and the band performed a mostly musical piece with Kuti using his sax. He leaped at the end causing the sax to come loose from its strap which secured it around his neck and fall to the stage. “It seems I do not know my own strength,” he said before beginning the performance with “Vagabonds in Power (VIP)”, a song written and performed by his father that he said was a parody of the African economic system.

During his set that lasted over an hour and a half, he also sang about “capitalist ideas of beauty” that confuse black women across the world. “In my country, 77 percent of the women are bleaching their skin and when they always have excuses for it, like Vybz Kartel,” he said referring to the Jamaican singer who promotes the use of skin lightening products in several of his songs.

Kuti, during his performance also vowed to return to the Caribbean to perform. He acknowledged it was his first time in the Caribbean, and then said, “I broke my sax in the first song, that is the Orishas telling me to come back so you can hear my saxophone music. If that is why my sax broke, it is a price I am willing to pay.”

Kuti’s performance was the last of many that filled the Grand Stand at the Savannah with local and international conscious and entertaining music and dance.

What did not fill the arena, however, were the patrons, which prompted Master of Ceremonies for the night, Errol Fabien, to ask on two separate occasions where were the people who are supposed to be there celebrating such a joyous occasion as Emancipation. After a delayed start, Fabien got the ball rolling by introducing the Network Riddim Band led by Karega Madela and Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba) who gave the crowd a taste of Rapso.

They made way for Ziggy Rankin (Khori Francis) who sang “Miserable Life” and an unrecorded song of his that celebrated his father’s advice to him to never give up.

Ruanne Cabralis was next, singing some of her own compositions and some sung by Ella Andall, as a tribute to the local artiste. Errol “Bally” Ballantyne also performed “Shaka Shaka”, backed by drumming and dancing from Wasafoli Trinidad and Tobago who took over the stage after that performance for a lively session of their own. South African singer, Lorraine Klaasen decked in a multi-coloured and multi-patterned outfit that included a cape-like piece of fabric from local designer and radio personality, Lisa Sargeant, came on stage after this performance and delighted with an upbeat performance and a cheeky personality.

Her songs ranged from the popular folk songs to those about Apartheid in South Africa. She did not disappoint, offering music from the late South African icon, Miriam Makeba like the all time favourite “Pata Pata”.

Being the daughter of famed South African singer Thandi Klaasen, who was one of the favourites of another departed South African icon, Nelson Mandela, she even included a song she said was one of Mandela’s favourites that she got to perform for him before he passed away and during his funeral last year.

Klaasen paid tribute to her hometown of Soweto in a song of the same name and even gave the audience an extra piece named “Malaika” or I like you after being sweet talked by an audience member while on stage. She ended her performance with “Uno Meua”, a story in song about a woman who is telling a man he is ugly but once he gives her his pay cheque, everything is fine.

For this song, she called one of her drummers to dance for the crowd and even a stagehand who came to assist her with her microphone but ended up in her grasp learning a few dance moves in the process.

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