David Corio

Fela Kuti

The Academy, Brixton, London
(November 12, 1983)

This was a wild night with an almost entirely Nigerian crowd here to see their hero. Fela had not played in London since the early 60s and this was the first show with his band Egypt 80. He would only play a few more shows here and I was lucky to see him that night. Leading a powerful horn section on saxophone he led his large band over some funky Afrobeat rhythms through a greatest hits set. Also on stage were Fela’s 30 singing and dancing wives, enhancing his mythic stature. The show lasted over four hours - short compared to the all-nighters at Fela’s Lagos club The Shrine.

As the Academy had no photo pit I got in as close as possible to the front of the stage. It was a difficult situation as the crowd kept throwing pints of lager up in the air to celebrate the opening bars of each new tune. I always liked this photo - it expresses clearly how powerful a force Fela was in African music and politics.

Fela Kuti