Knitting Factory label spearheads massive project in the wake of
Broadway musical FELA! success.
By Dan Weiss
45 albums. Afrobeat pioneer, provocative bandleader and all-around African
music legend Fela Kuti died at 58 but Bob Dylan’s still catching up to that
total at 68. Paul McCartney’s not even close. Needless to say, that’s a
legendary amount of tape.
Knitting Factory Records has taken up the heavy task of reissuing every damn thing in the late Black President’s catalogue-all of which expected
to see the light of day in North American record stores by 2011. It comes
following the recent success of loosely biographical Broadway musical FELA!
Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones is the
director and choreographer of the musical, based on the life and music of the
legend. The critically acclaimed musical opened
at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New
York on November 23. Sold-out crowds were left
dancing in the aisles during its premiere last summer at Off-Broadway 37 Arts,
as the world renowned Antibalas and other members of the NYC Afrobeat
community, under the direction of Aaron Johnson, performed Fela’s music live
“The musical has increased demand quite a bit, as would be expected,
but really even before the musical hit the press it seems like there’s been
this sort of organic magnetism towards Fela,” says Knitting Factory’s Ian
We got the first taste of these-many of which seeing North American release
on vinyl for the first time ever-last October with the self-explanatory Best of the Black President, a
2xCD-plus-DVD treasure chest that collects some of the best (and funkiest)
music ever made.
Watch BLURT for an announcement about a special Fela contest in which you can win tickets to the FELA! musical as well as a CD/DVD package.