Published May 01, 2012The Fela Kuti brand, as his son Seun refers to it, has only grown more powerful since the man's passing in 1997. Live In Detroit 1986 is the first new Fela album since the '90s and certainly the first since Fela! the Broadway musical spread his name to far more people than ever before. Newbies are in for a surprise with this dense and uncompromisingly lengthy live performance. Recorded on his first American tour at the historic Fox Theatre in Detroit, MI, Fela unleashed yet to be recorded songs ranging in length from 28 to 40 minutes. The band take a minute or two to lock into each of the grooves but after a few minutes, the sound is entrancing. The rhythm section and backing vocalists are always on point, but Fela is sometimes slow to let go of unsuccessful musical choices, as in the woeful organ clash at the beginning of "Confusion Break Bones." However, that dissonance, combined with the bootleg-but-better sound quality, is strangely compelling and especially flattering to the rhythms. This is not exciting music; it's a hypnotically paced political screed. I wouldn't start a Fela collection with this album, but it's well worth having.
Read an interview with author of Fela: The Life and Times of an African Music Icon Michael Veal here. (Knitting Factory)