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Issue 1084

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Seun Kuti & Egypt80 + Geraldo Pino & the Heartbeats:: 28/05/2008 @The Barbican

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (Barbican 28/05/08)
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (Barbican 28/05/08) Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats

The opening night of the Barbicanâs exciting âGroove Nationsâ opened with a decidedly African twist. First up was Geraldo Pino (aka Gerald Pine) one of the veteran super heroes of African popular music.

A singer, guitarist and bandleader from Sierra Leone, Geraldo had a huge influence on the nascent soul/funk/Afrobeat scene in West Africa during the 1960s and 70s. It was a real coup that this living legend was on stage tonight and making his UK debut. From the off, Geraldo, looking resplendent in a white suit soon had the audience eating out of his hand.

GP wasted no time whipping a full on party, playing songs from his seminal classic LP 'Heavy Heavy Heavy'. Bolstered by his long time percussionist, Francis Fuster (whose played with him for over 50 years!) The band tore through their wonderfully compelling Afrobeat repertoire including 'Man Pass Man', 'Iron de Cut Iron' and the hysterically funny 'Right in The Centre'. GP effused style and a great sense of humour saying; âOne more time ladies and gentleman letâs here it for me!!â I wish Lenny Henry had been here he would have found some excellent free source material indeed!

It's no wonder that he made such a huge impression on a certain young Fela Kuti who never stopped praising him. Itâs well worth getting yourself a copy of his album as this music sounds just as vital today as it did back then. With the crowd suitably warmed up expectations were running high. To step into the breach of the legacy of Fela Kuti is one tall order, just ask Ziggy and Tuff Gong Marley exactly how hard it is! Have no fear this African Prince is the heir apparent to his father and quite possibly the living embodiment of the manâs greatness. Already a veteran at 25 Seun cut his teeth by opening shows for his father at the tender age of nine, at the legendary Lagos club the Shrine. It all fell into place when Fela went, Seun became the leader of his last great band Egypt 80 and now proceeds to stamp his authority on proceedings and add to his Fatherâs creative vision.

It was Egypt 80 who kicked off the set with the wonderfully entitled 'Donât give that sh*t to me' led by Baritone player Ade Fagbemi (aka Showboy). The jam was definately on and the cogs in the Afobeat machine were well and truly oiled for the handsome young lion (dressed in a crisp white shirt and evening dress slacks) to roar and take centre stage. His entrance was a spine tingling moment - his boundless energy and natural showmanship quickly set in. It could only be a high octane show and one to relish. The crowd were soon up on their feet enjoying the infectious grooves.

Afrobeat ruled the evening and it was a real privilege to witness this legendary band and itâs leader at the height of his powers.
Playing Alto as well as singing, Seun has inherited the sheer talent and charisma of his father. He is a superb frontman athletic and lithe and fully capable of directing his vast band. I particularly enjoyed the two guitarists, David Obanyedo and Alade Oluwagbemiga on lead and rhythm respectively. They conjurned up sharp and entrancing riffs that weaved the whole set together. I âve named them the 'Fender twin reverb brothers'!

Afrobeat has rarified intensity be it about politics or sexuality. It's a heady cocktail but one worth sipping. Seun does not shy away from the heavy stuff,he was constantly berating and taking the mick out of the Nigerian Government. Top tunes of the night were 'Mosquito Song' (malaria kills more than Aids in Africa) and 'Many Things' a slamming vilification against the empty promises of his familyâs sworn enemy President Obasanjo. The 5 piece horn section punctuate this song like arrows that never miss their targets. Itâs not all hard line militancy either. The erotic 'Fire Dance' had Seun emulating some sacrum rocking jiggy jiggy and the dancer who shook her booty at a 150bpm all night is bound to do herself a mischief watch out for water on the knee my dear!

Joking aside, I doubt Iâll get to review such an awesome show that was in such evidence tonight for a very long time. Afrobeat is stretching i'ts borders and i'ts Global DNA and indigenous rhythm is in i'ts glorious ascendancy once more. A star is born. The king is dead long live the king!
Words Emrys Baird

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