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from guy warren to fela kuti – afrobeat - world hub accra – written by amma birago

AFROBEAT
- WORLD HUB ACCRA
by

amma
birago

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There would be no Afrobeat without Tony Allen. - Fela Anikulapo- Kuti


Tony Allen - The greatest living drummer as far as I’m concerned. - Brian Eno
from guy warren to fela kuti – afrobeat - world hub accra – written by amma birago

The Gold Coast was a major cultural hub of British West Africa and the colonial

world. Its various ports, all through the 19th century and onwards, saw the arrival of

many from Europe, natives of the West African hinterlands and also globally, returnees

from the Diaspora. They settled on the coast - reinforcing that unique Gold Coast world

hub aspect - sustaining, over the long haul, the energy, key ingredients and drivers, in

the process for the agitation for independence and the constructing of new identities

and ideas.

Afrobeat World Hub is about the capital city Accra from the post-World War

years - from 1947 through 1954 to 1960 when under Kwame Nkrumah the people

became an independent nation in 1957 and then a Republic in 1960. Encapsulating this

transitional, chaotic and turbulent however very colorful era, Afrobeat World Hub

Accra portrays the unique soundscape of the city, its various local and international

artistes and the social and political awareness and movements in Europe and in America

which swayed opinions, affected culture and cemented allegiances in commerce,

industry, the arts as well as in politics.

Accra, over the many decades, was vibrant and colorful in the showcasing and

representation of identities, assorted popular cultural trends and musical expressions.

The history and social scene of the city in that post-World War and Post-Independence

era is therefore very reliable in the depiction, for instance, of the processes which

undermined, in a sense, and then propelled music - classical, ballroom and swing to jazz

and then Soul - all the while, the idea of the nation and what lies beyond it at stake -
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being shaped and imagined.

There would be no Afrobeat without Tony Allen. - Fela Anikulapo- Kuti


Tony Allen - The greatest living drummer as far as I’m concerned. - Brian Eno
from guy warren to fela kuti – afrobeat - world hub accra – written by amma birago

The work therefore highlights -

1. the influence of Guy Warren - Chiefly a drummer, Warren was the

epitome of the experimental artist and musician. His phenomenal work audaciously

titled - Africa Speaks, America Answers - clarifies his intent and that his was the

deliberate effort to archive and document, to curate, while performing by rallying the

vitalities of various cross -Atlantic musical influences which he determined to be African

into an archival and narrative-shaping, and importantly, case-building work. His effort

and investment in the musical band the Tempos - his travels far and wide during which

he curated and imported musical instruments, insisting on their accents, inflections and

cultural significations which spoke to the migratory identity fusions and discourse

deemed Black African - the man was and his work is nothing short of legendary. His

intellectual and artistic process harnessing the migratory patterns and musical

expressions of black peoples in Europe as well as in North and South America, showed

him as the radical forerunner of the Pan-Africanist’s evangelism, proving what was

indigenous Black African and boldly, uncompromisingly, proclaiming it as such.

2. the influence of Kwame Nkrumah - Spearheading Pan Africanism called

for the investment in the musical arts to sustain and equip the designed and desired

political and cultural framework, a point brilliantly outlined by John Collins in his

academic work titled - Popular Performance and Culture in Ghana - The Past

50 years - ‘… an artistic lingua franca suitable for Nkrumah’s ideal of building a nation
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There would be no Afrobeat without Tony Allen. - Fela Anikulapo- Kuti


Tony Allen - The greatest living drummer as far as I’m concerned. - Brian Eno
from guy warren to fela kuti – afrobeat - world hub accra – written by amma birago

from Ghana’s polyglot communities. The second was Nkrumah’s fostering of traditional

and folkloric performance by promoting countrywide festivals, establishing regional arts

councils, the Ghana Dance Ensemble, and encouraging the teaching of traditional

African music in schools and universities. The third prong of his national arts policy was

the Africanization of art-music and Western-type theater through setting up a National

Symphony Orchestra and a National Drama Studio, and supporting nationalist

composers.

3. the city interlocutor - A well-informed, unusual and identity-shifting man

as interlocutor is a main feature in the work Afrobeat - World Hub Accra. He

highlights the social, popular and political climate before Nkrumah was made Leader of

Government Business in 1950 and the climate during his presidency till and after 1966

when he was ousted. From get-go, the interlocutor is expecting someone he refers to as

the harvestman of the city - an enigma of a man without a name who he describes with

such appellations as

- the son of the Lioness of Lisabi

- the self-proclaimed spiritual son of Nkrumah

The interlocutor is expecting none other than Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

4. the role of fela kuti - A staunch political activist and advocate, a firm

friend of Nkrumah, Fela Kuti’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, invested in and

believed in the unique abilities of her son, his place or potential in the narrative and also
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There would be no Afrobeat without Tony Allen. - Fela Anikulapo- Kuti


Tony Allen - The greatest living drummer as far as I’m concerned. - Brian Eno
from guy warren to fela kuti – afrobeat - world hub accra – written by amma birago

the opportunity a musician. A visionary and guardian of Pan Africanism in the span of

time bracketed by the colonial and the neo-colonial era, when nations on the African

continent where being designed, imagined, when the tectonic plates active forced

competition for the scramble for the hearts and minds of the people and the opinions of

stakeholders not only in Africa but as well the Black Diaspora, her unflinching support

of Nkrumah’s vision, approach and strategy, bolstered the political ideology intended to

shape and take hold in Africa and the Black Diaspora. Pan Africanism, and the place ad

opportunity for her son, called for cultural ambassadorship - synthesizing, bridging

conversations, musical expressions, old and contemporary, over-arching narratives, as

well as guarding the Pan Africanist political framework and agenda.

In February of 1966, a toddling but very ambitious country important in the Pan-

Africanist narrative, Ghana, is in that respect orphaned - Nkrumah is ousted and exiled.

Fela Kuti appears on the scene in Accra where he creates a base and network, harvesting

and synthesizing the various strands of popular musical expressions and key cultural

drivers and significations of the city - World Hub Accra. By the light of the dying and

reviving embers of Nkrumah’s ideologies, for three years, Fela Kuti’s craft as a musician,

his aspiration and narrative sought definition, weight and gravitas, gaining a quality

elemental and at the same time worldly -a quality which at the time was the very essence

of the city Accra, its edge and character.

In 1969 Fela Kuti left for Los Angeles to present and extend his first music album,

the '69 Los Angeles Sessions, and of course, his newly-minted Pan Africanist approach

and music genre - which he created and christened Afrobeat while he lived in Accra -
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this genre which he much later captioned - music is the weapon.


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There would be no Afrobeat without Tony Allen. - Fela Anikulapo- Kuti


Tony Allen - The greatest living drummer as far as I’m concerned. - Brian Eno