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Fall for Fela! Free Coney concert celebrates the Afrobeat pioneer • Brooklyn Paper

Fall for Fela! Free Coney concert celebrates the Afrobeat pioneer

He’s a jolly good Fela: Singer Duain Richmond and a troupe of nine dancers will play the music of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti in “Fela: the Concert,” at the Coney Island Amphitheater on July 26.
Aric Thompson

They got the ’beat!

A free concert in Coney Island will celebrate the music of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian artist who fused funk and jazz with African rhythms to create Afrobeat. “Fela! the Concert,” at the Ford Amphitheater on July 26, showcases songs from the biographical Broadway musical “Fela!,” and has played continuously since that show closed in 2010, said its musical director.

“It’s kind of incredible that it still lives,” said Greg Gonzalez, who also plays drums in the band. “I feel great about it. For me, it’s been an amazing experience.”

It features a 10-piece band, along with nine performers who both sing and dance, all working together to create an incredible show, said the Williamsburg drummer.

“This band has a lot of really talented NYC musicians and dancers, and I want to display all their talents,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of talented musicians, and it’s going to be damn good show.”

And the dancing is not limited to the stage — the performers will teach the audience some African dance moves during the show.

“We give the audience a quick dance lesson on shaking your booty,” said Gonzalez.

The free concert is part of the city’s Summerstage series, which brings music to parks across the five boroughs. “Fela! the Concert” has toured the world, including a stop at Kuti’s home country of Nigeria, where they were warmly received, but the Coney Island concert will mark the first time the show has played in New York City. Gonzalez said that the band members are excited to play their hometown.

“Playing Summerstage is definitely a big deal for those of us who are from here,” he said. “We’re psyched, all of our friends are coming out, and we’re going to bring some people on stage.”

Concert-goers who want more of the Fela Kuti’s music can find similar sounds throughout Kings County, said Gonzalez. There are plenty of local bands that play Afrobeat, including Brooklyn acts Antibalas and Underground System, he said.

“There’s a bunch of little bands, and a lot of jazz musicians playing Afrobeat,” said Gonzalez. “Definitely in Brooklyn it’s still alive.”

The unique music style pioneered by Kuti has also evolved into new forms around the world, he added.

“It’s kind of morphed into this new style they call Afrobeats — with an ‘s’ — which is pop music with an African and Caribbean sound,” said Gonzalez. “It’s become a part of the African Diaspora.”

“Fela! the Concert” at Ford Amphitheater (3052 W. 21st St. at the Boardwalk in Coney Island, fordamphitheaterconeyisland.com). July 26 at 8 p.m. Free.

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at broundy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Beat goes on: The show on July 26 includes tunes from the Broadway show “Fela!” and a few more of Fela Kuti’s songs.
Aric Thompson

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