Photograph by Ian Dickson/Retna Ltd.
Thirty years after the late, great Fela Kuti and his sweaty blend of jazz, funk, and conga rhythms had their heyday, the Nigerian innovator's sound is reshaping the mainstream music scene. Indie bands from New York—like Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend, and Dirty Projectors—have adopted Kuti's drum-heavy mix. The reigning American Afrobeat band, Antibalas, has joined TV on the Radio on their second and third efforts, and the U.K. youngsters the Foals on their debut, Antidotes. Kuti's sons, Femi and Seun, are gaining popularity, and now the Afrobeat pioneer himself is getting a tribute: The musical Fela! is rumored to be coming to Broadway early next year. Hopefully it'll show visitors to the Great White Way that there's more to African music than The Lion King. Matt Hendrickson
Fela Kuti performs "Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense."
EL GUINCHO'S AFROBEAT PICKS
Here, a starter collection from Barcelona musician El Guincho (a.k.a. Pablo Díaz-Reixa), whose sample-heavy debut, Alegranza, helped fuel Afrobeat's international resurgence.
Fela Kuti, Expensive Shit
"I'm into the American jazz guys, so there's something familiar here: the horns. But Fela's band, Africa '70, has its very own sense of rhythm."
Various Artists, Ghana Soundz Volume 2
"I love the drums on Marijata's 'No Condition Is Permanent.' Play it on a huge sound system and you'll be blown away instantly."
Blo, Phases 1972-1982
"I'm really into the vocals in here, but my favorite thing is the reverberation and the wah-wah guitar. They sound dark and sweaty—very alive."
Alhaji K. Frimpong, Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu
"This might not be what you'd call classic Afrobeat, but the drums on 'Susu Ne Wonka' are crazy!"
Ephraim Uzomechina Nzeka, Zombie
"This album has a disco-y feeling that I love. You can play the whole thing, a massive hit, at every party."