Red Hot + Riot LIVE!: The Music and Spirit of Fela Kuti

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House; Fri 1, Sat 2

Fela Anikulapo Kuti at the Apollo, 1989

Fela Anikulapo Kuti at the Apollo, 1989

Yerba Buena bandleader and guitarist Andrs Levin wasn’t obligated to brave the social chaos of Lagos, Nigeria, to produce the 2002 AIDS tribute disc that lends this all-star salute its name. That he did says much about his dedication to the project’s spirit. The credits on the 75-minute album reveal that Levin’s trip to Kalakuta, the late Afrobeat hell-raiser Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s famed compound, netted exactly 32 seconds of music for the compilation—hardly enough reason, it would seem, to endure the power outages and web of potential treachery awaiting anyone visiting the Nigerian megacity-shantytown.

Fela’s defiant funk has traveled so well that today, Afrobeat beyond Nigeria might even dwarf what goes on in its city of origin. As a result, it probably wasn’t necessary for Brazilian icon Jorge Ben Jor to be in the same room (or on the same continent) with Brooklyn MCs Dead Prez and Talib Kweli for their collaboration on Red Hot + Riot’s kinetic version of “Shuffering and Shmiling.” Of the album’s participants, Dead Prez joins Levin and Yerba Buena tonight, as do Me’Shell NdegOcello, Senegalese spiritualist Cheikh L, vocal troupe Les Nubians, Sade arranger Stuart Matthewman and the drummer who powered Fela’s Africa 70 ensemble all those decades ago, Tony Allen. The ringers in the cast, the Afro-blue husband and wife duo Amadou and Mariam, represent for Mali. — K. Leander Williams