Tag Archives: Kalakuta

Lemi about Fela Kuti

Only a few months before naming the Kalakuta Republic, in 1974, Lemi became friends with the Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti.

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It’s been pre-ordained that my path would cross with Fela’s for the purpose of celebrating Africa’

They shared Pan-Africanist views about the unity of African people and Black consciousness, and Lemi started frequenting the Republic, working there and attending the shows at the Shrine. He knew Fela’s tracks inside out because they were performed live months before they were recorded, so he grasped the concept of the albums and designed a ‘translation’ of them through his own point of view when designing the covers. He received guidance from Fela only on two of them: Johnny Just Drop and Sorrow, Tears and Blood .

Lemi describes Fela in the following way:

He had a very strong character, very radical, but also a soft and human side. I was using different techinques to express the different character sensitivities: ink and pencil for Sorrow, Tears and Blood, oil when I wanted some more fleshy and realistic colours.’

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Lemi comments on the deterioration of his relationship with Fela, explaining it by the difference in their characters:

 

‘Fela is a genius, an iconoclast, a humanist, a liberator, a maverick, many things rolled into one. Creative geniuses, when they get to their heights, they are eccentric in nature.’

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Lemi Ghariokwu – the bio facts

Lemi, also called the inventor of ‘Lagos Afro Pop Art’, was born in Lagos in 1955 and has always had a keen interest in art. He had no formal training, but his mother was artistic, as she used to weave and trace drawings, and his sister also used to draw, but never took it seriously.

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Lemi says he used to paint Mickey and other cartoons when he was a kid and this shows in his style: a cross between illustration and cartoon, his album jackets displaying a diverse narrative pattern which actually tells the story about the social issues the lyrics of the songs approach. Lemi designed 26 album sleeves for Fela over 19 years. But how did he get to meet the king of Afrobeat?

In 1974, he became friends with Fela through an acquaintanceship with the journalist Babatunde Harrison, who has seen a drawing of Lemi’s in a bar they both used to go to. He asked Lemi to do a portrait of Fela and then gave it to him. The musician was impressed and tried to give Lemi money for it, but he refused it and instead got a pass for all of Fela’s shows.

This was the year of the naming of Kalakuta Republic, so Lemi started frequenting the place and assimilating the ideology, already having a Pan-Africanist mindframe: ‘I spent my life at the Shrine. I worked alone. I did my drawings there’, said Lemi. He was the YAP (Young African Pioneers) news editor, designing 2 cartoons a week (one colour, one black & white) depicting and criticizing what happened over the week, as the organization also used to make ‘subversive’ posters which were banned in 1977.

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Once he got into the business, he became quite prolific and now his clientele includes artists from Ghana, Cameroun and beyond. People on rotation at his place include: Ras Kimono, Charlie Boy, Shina Peters, Sunny Ade, Alhaji Kollington, Evi Edna Ogosi, The Mandators , Majek Fashek, Alex O.
He is also into sculptures, public paintings, general graphic works, magazine paste-ups, corporate stationaries and other artistic endeavours.

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Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Session Pics

So before getting to bits and pieces of Lemi’s bio, I thought we should get in the Afro atmosphere by checking out some photos from a Live Afrobeat Session in London featuring Dele Sosimi, Fela Kuti’s Egypt 80 band keyboard player for 7 years and then Femi Kuti’s Positive Force music director. Afrobeat emerged in the club established by Fela Kuti in Lagos, called The Shrine, as part of the Kalakuta Republic, the place where him and like-minded people practiced his ideologies and resisted the social surrounding environment.

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This live Spiritual Afrobeat Session was led by Dele, with DJ Koichi Sakai, recreating the energy and vibe of the performances in the Shrine through the lively mash-up of Yoruba music, jazz, highlife and funk, taking you straight back to Nigeria’s 70’s.

So here’s the link to some really good pics from the event:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/awkgallerys/sets/72157613278604566/show/

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