STUDIO: UMVD/Visual Entertainment
MSRP: $24.99 RATED: NR
RUNNING TIME: 133 Minutes
Interview with Femi Kuti
Bonus Performances
"Shotan" Video Clip
Bonus live concert CD

The Pitch

Jazz meets soul meets funk meets traditional African music and Nigerian drum patterns in the explosive musical style of “Afro-beat” as legendary African musician Femi Kuti gives a concert live at the New Africa Shrine.

The Humans

Femi Kuti and his band, The Positive Force, as well as some concertgoers in the town of Lagos, Nigeria.

The Nutshell

During his lifetime, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the creator of Afro-beat, endured beatings, humiliation and torture in the name of Panafricanism. In 2000, his son, Femi Kuti, created the New Africa Shrine, where every Sunday he plays for the citizens of Lagos, Nigeria, espousing a message of a unified Africa, very much like his father. This DVD is footage of one of these concerts, intercut with backstage footage, interviews, street scenes, and footage of the daily operations of the Shrine.

I think I’m seein’ double…FOUR Femi Kutis!

The Package

A classy looking cover, some bonus tracks, a bonus CD featuring an extra live concert on it, some film previews, and a massive 15-part interview with Femi Kuti himself covering topics like the Shrine itself, as well as some of the political motivations behind his music. This double-disc package is stacked. As for the look and sound, the camera puts you right in the middle of the concert, following both spectators and musicians. The cinematography is great and the editing is superb. The lighting is moody and atmospheric throughout. The video quality suffers greatly as a result of this, with bleached out colors and significant graininess throughout (the backstage and documentary footage is similar). I can’t really complain though, as the look seems very appropriate to the informal laid back setting of the DVD. We do not get a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, though we do get a 2.0 PCM and a 2.0 AC3 mix, both of which actually sound quite good, though they lack the bass and atmospheric sound effects that a surround mix could probably bring. It doesn’t quite put you there, aurally, but it’s good enough to leave on in the background and listen to if you’re into the music.

A scant five feet and plenty of luck were all that prevented Femi Kuti from becoming one of the Nation’s Punched.

The Lowdown

Before I watched this DVD, I never really paid much attention to Afro-beat, so it was a treat for me to be introduced to it like this. I personally am now a fan; Afro-beat is a lively, exciting form of music that’s combined with a biting political message aimed at the establishment. If you’re a fan of Afro-beat or Femi Kuti, this DVD is an absolute must-have. Those who aren’t will probably not enjoy it nearly as much, though it does also have its charms for the uninitiated.

I haven’t seen too many concert DVDs in my lifetime but this one not only captures the spirit of the concert very well, but also the political atmosphere of the town, as well as the atmosphere of the Shrine location in general. There is not too much historical context given on the African political problems (there’s a clunky opening text crawl and you pick up bits and pieces from some interviews), so a full appreciation of the band and their mission probably requires a fuller understanding of the history of this region, which I don’t think you’ll find here.

That’s not to say that the film is ineffective. Much of the focus of the DVD is on Femi Kuti himself, who comes across as personable and incredibly talented. No matter what your political views, you won’t be able to help but admire this man’s talent and drive for what he believes him, a perception that is only augmented by the film’s interviews with his throngs of adoring fans. If you’ve ever heard of Femi Kuti or are curious about a new African musical style, you’d do yourself well to check out this DVD.

8.0 out of 10