This year we're asking our musically and culturally inclined friends to write our evening programs. Here's Marco Werman on Chop and Quench, Fela and the 69 Los Angeles sessions.
It seems that the Fela cultural moment in the US has been humming ever since Sahr Ngaujah portrayed the Afrobeat innovator in the Broadway music Fela! But to really dig down to the root of what Fela Kuti is all about, you’ve got to go back to the late 1960s, and Fela’s time in Los Angeles. For him, it was a discovery of musical synthesis – his own Nigerian juju music, John Coltrane and James Brown to name just three key influences – as well as politically empowering voices like the Black Panthers. At the crux of that residency in the US came the ’69 Los Angeles sessions, a series of dates at a struggling nightclub called the Citadel de Haiti on Sunset Boulevard. Grand Performances takes you back to those early heady days when Anikulapo Kuti was still the colonial-branded “Ransome Kuti,” but things were already changing radically. Chop ‘N Quench takes the part of Fela’s band Koola Lobitos; and in an extraordinary bit of curation, Sahr Ngaujah reprises his alter-ego of Fela.
Marco Werman is the host of PRI's THE World
See Chop and Quench play a history-making live performance of the "69 Los Angeles Sessions" for free on Friday, July 18 @ 8pm. Click here for more info.