For the first time, Fela Kuti collaborator Roy Ayers will join with Fela’s son in an homage to the iconic pioneer of Afrobeat
Roy Ayers gives new meaning to the word “longevity.” Born into a thriving musical family in 1940, Ayers immediately dove headfirst into the scene, eventually emerging as one of the most well-respected funk, soul and jazz composers living today. He also plays the vibraphone with unflinching panache. His early career saw him experimenting mostly with post-bob jazz, as he was signed to a multi-album deal with Atlantic Records. When he transitioned over to Polydor Records in the ‘70s, his sound evolved as well. Ayers became one of the grand designers of the irrepressibly ear-pleasing mashup genre of jazz-funk. Taking style hybridization one step further, Ayers became a key participant in the acid jazz revolution, which masterfully mixed jazz with hip-hop and funk, garnering him the longstanding moniker “The Godfather of Neo-Soul.” Some of his most beloved hits include “Everybody Love the Sunshine,” “Searchin’,” and “Running Away.” He also holds the unique distinction of having more songs sampled by rappers (including Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, 50 Cent, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac & Ice Cube) than any other artist in history.
Seun, the sprightly offspring of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, has had a passion for music since he was a little boy. He petitioned his father to let him sing at his side, and his dream was soon realized, as the two joyfully harmonized. When his dad sadly passed away, Seun was asked to lead his band, Egypt 80. Seun, only 14 at the time, rose to the opportunity, adding his own viewpoint to the group. He has continued to imbue the sound with sophisticated strata, channeling the deep and varied cultural, African origins of the genre. The band plays new music, along with the classics that Fela shepherded, such as ‘Shuffering and Shmiling,” “Colonial Mentality” and “Army Arrangement.” Seun and Egypt 80 have remained vital, political and true to their historically imperative roots.
The glorious grab bag of internationally-grown members of Underground System (who take their name from a Fela Kuti song) reads like a roll call of musical and cultural diversity. Conceived in Brooklyn, this unstoppable female-fronted corps of neo-afrobeat-deconstructionists has cultivated a sound as inimitable as its members. Hinged on a tight, seamlessly executed stage show, this group astonishes wherever they go, compelling crowds to dance with unbridled vim. To provide a sliver of a glimpse of insight into their unfathomably varied roots, their original dance floor track “Bella Ciao” received worldwide fanfare, as several DJs and producers cut and remixed it. The song is a “retro-futuristic” reimagining of an anti-fascist WWII ballad from Italy, sung by the African American-Italian lead singer (Domenica Fossati) who was born in Miami and raised in Venezuela. Citing influences from the South Bronx girl group ESG to the Brit-new wave cult crew XTC, this subterranean organization of deliciously scrambled afrobeat re-inventors continues to soar across broadening musical horizons. Promoting their soon-to-come debut album, Underground System is touring with irresistible vitality, acquiring praise as they spread majestically modified, delectable African beats to dance halls around the country.
For the past two decades, Rich Medina has cemented his reputation as an elite DJ. Outside the club, he’s a father, educator, platinum-selling record producer, poet, designer, public speaker and journalist. From his humble beginnings at TK Nightclub in Philadelphia to his current status manning the decks at four of New York City’s most popular recurring parties, Rich Medina has taken crowds on a sonic journey through hip-hop, house, Afrobeat, funk and soul, unearthing one musical gem after another and adhering to a singular, uplifting creed: Love Afro Life. Medina is also an advisory board member of (his alma mater) Cornell University’s Hip Hop Collection where he is a guest lecturer and panel moderator for their music and Africana departments. His writing has been featured in many esteemed publications including The Fader, Wax Poetics and Complex Magazine.