Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I thought I was ready. I thought I had prepared myself for what I was about to see last Saturday night at Zebulon when Fu-Arkist-Ra, an afrobeat-experimental-jazz band, shook the foundations of Zebulon to its core. I fully expected to see an amazing energy-packed show that would keep the crowd engaged and dancing the entire time. I expected the music to be unique and artistic. I thought I had an idea of what to expect, but I had no idea. I could have never expected or foreseen what took place that night.
I could have never expected to see a show that left the entire crowd dancing and singing for ten minutes after the band stopped playing. I had no idea the bar would be so packed, people were hanging from the ceilings, standing on chairs, and basically standing on the stage. I knew people would be dancing, but I did not expect people to not stop grooving and dancing to the music from the first note that was played until after the show was over. I knew I was going to see a great show, but I had no idea I would see the best live musical performance I have ever seen.
Fu-Arkist-Ra is a side project of Duke Amayo, the lead singer of Antibalas, a brooklyn-based afrobeat band whose fame is growing to international stature. He describes his music as "an explosive blend of African spiritual rhythms, traditional Chinese lion rhythms, highlife, funk, and jazz, infused with passionate activism." Amayo is originally from Lagos, Nigeria, the largest city in Africa, from which Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the creator of afrobeat and arguably the most famous African musician of the 20th century, also comes. He came to the United States at the age of sixteen looking for an athletic scholarship to an American University. He was successful in his pursuit when he was awarded a football scholarship to Howard University where he graduated with honors with a degree in Architecture and Commercial Arts.
Amayo is also a Sifu, or master of Kung-Fu, he brings a lot of the same approach from martial arts to his music. Anyone who has seen Amayo perform either with Antibalas or Fu-Arkist-Ra knows his energy and delivery style is unmatched in its aggressiveness and passion. I was curious where he gets his inspiration and passion from. He told me he uses the same methods of preparation for his kung-fu as he does his music, "the rituals I do before I go on stage are like martial arts for me. I do breathing exercises, push-ups, meditation."
The variation and spontaneity of his performances is also something that inspires him. He never seeks to play a song the same way twice, "It's like doing a martial arts form. There's a million different ways I can approach it. That's my approach to composition, that's the jazz element of it, that no two performances are the same. One song can become a million different songs."
The members of the band and instruments represented fluctuate from performance to performance, and one of the most dynamic aspects of the band is its instrumentation. Saturday night, the instruments employed were drums, bass, electric piano, saxophone, flute, cello, djembe and chakara or shaker. Not all of the musicians could fit on the stage, so the crowd-musician interaction was extreme.
The name "Fu-Arkist-Ra" is a highly symbolic philosophical name. It has a layered meaning: FU (foo). 1. Philosophically rooted in Kung Fu. 2 The art of excellence. 3. Building from within thyself. Arkist (ark ist).1. Musical bridge builders. 2. Spiritual connectivity to the temple of the mind. 3. A keeper of the Underground Spiritual Movement of Afrobeat. 4. An aspirant of the highest order of compositions. RA (ra) 1. [Egyptian] Sun God Ra. 2. [Yoruba] Derived from the word Irawo meaning: a star that appears when the RA (the sun) has set.
Fu-Arkist-Ra is coming back to Zebulon on the 31st of August. If you are a live music lover, afrobeat fan, jazz fan, or simply need something to do next friday night, do yourself a favor and check these guys out at Zebulon. They will rock you hard and long leaving you dancing long after the show is over. I guarantee it will be a concert you will not soon forget.
Posted by Marc Amigone at 7:56 PM