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Balogun: Why we want to celebrate Michael Jackson, Fela Anikulapo Kuti

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Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III and Ola Balogun

The well-known filmmaker, author, musician and cultural activist, Ola Balogun, has given reason for his organisation’s decision to honour some of Africa’s greatest artists.

Speaking to The Guardian at the weekend, Balogun said arrangements have been concluded for the inaugural edition of Afrika Bamba, a high-priority Pan African cultural event. It is scheduled to hold sometime in September.

Initially scheduled for February, but was postponed due to logistics that were not perfected then and the coronavirus pandemic, which swept the world, thereafter, is curated by Dr. Balogun.

According to the organisers, the event will take the form of an illustrated lecture combined with live music and dance. It will equally present a vivid panorama of African and African diaspora music — traditional African music, highlife, jazz, blues, salsa, rhumba, samba, calypso, reggae, soukous, makossa and others — from origins to Afrobeat.

Balogun said, “the event, titled, Afrika Bamba, would be a celebration of the amazing achievements of African and African diaspora musicians and musical performers across the ages, as well as a high-octave endeavour aimed at mobilising present and future generations of Africans and African descendants throughout the world for the gigantic task of placing Africa’s immensely rich cultural and artistic heritage in proper historical perspective, with a view to contributing meaningfully to the further economic and political emancipation of the black race.”

He said part of the plan would be to bestow a Yoruba name posthumously on Michael Jackson as one of the highlights of the event. “Unfortunately, the very week I was to travel back to Oyo for the ifa consultation to determine the correct name for him the pop music legend, travel restrictions were imposed in the country. I hope to go back to Oyo for the ifa ceremony envisaged by the Alafin as a preliminary step towards bestowing an appropriate Yoruba name on Michael Jackson. It is also envisaged that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti will posthumously be bestowed with a prestigious chieftaincy title.”

He added, ” one of the main sources of inspiration for a long-awaited event like Afrika Bamba is the need to reaffirm the beauty and strength of African cultural and artistic traditions, with a view to refuting the false claims that were made by rapacious and cruel imperialists who sought to justify the atrocities of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan slave trade and the subsequent subjugation of the peoples of Africa to colonial exploitation by the fallacious claim that Africans had no worthwhile historical and cultural past prior to the arrival of narrow-minded foreign invaders.”

From this perspective, “support for the noble objectives of a ground-breaking endeavour like Afrika Bamba is equivalent to support for the consolidation and growth of the economic and political well-being of the peoples of Africa, as well as of the descendants of Africans all over the world,” Balogun said.

He added, “the discussions and presentations at the event will be led and moderated by Balogun. Presentations will include talks by the following veteran observers and participants in the history of Nigerian, African and Africa diaspora music: Mr. Benson Idonije, the celebrated broadcaster and journalist, whose highly informative articles on jazz, afrobeat and world music in general have been published in Nigeria and elsewhere for several decades now, was a close friend and collaborator of the legendary originator of Afrobeat music, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, abami eda and is the author of the only authoritative book that has so far been published on Fela’s life and achievements.”

Femi Esho, CEO of Evergreen Records, a resourceful music and video archive company that has released extensive compilations of Nigerian and Ghanaian highlife music, as well as a complete collection of Fela’s recorded music and Odion Iruoje, a long-serving producer and artiste manager at E.M.I. records Nigeria, and a leading authority on contemporary Nigerian and African music.

Also to be honoured is Jimi Solanke, legendary performer of Nigerian highlife and folk songs, as well as a veteran of Nigerian stage and film productions, Lekan Animashaun, a founding member of Fela Anikulapo’s Africa 70 band, who played and toured with Fela until the very end.

Live music and dances will include performances of Nigerian traditional music and dances ranging from egungun masquerade displays, ijala chanting, bata drumming and talking drum performances as well as atilogu dance, swange dance, ibitun dance etc,” he said.

Live highlife and contemporary African music will also feature on this occasion, with performances by IROKO and by Professor Emeritus Helen Ibe, currently the most outstanding music performer in Nigeria and Ghana.

The Alafin of Oyo granted a special audience to Balogun on February 25at the Royal Palace in Oyo, in the course of which Kabiyesi “was kind enough to confirm that he would be willing to come to Lagos to preside over the special cultural event”, he said.

The main venue envisaged for the event is Ikeja, Lagos, but since attendance might be limited to only a handful of people in physical terms if present corona virus regulations continue till September, it will all be streamed live on the Internet for the benefit of all interested folks everywhere across Africa, the U.S., Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.


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