Last year I missed Jump N Funk but I knew this year I would move heaven and earth to attend the tribute party to Fela Anikulapo Kuti created by one of my favorite DJ’s Rich Medina. If you never heard of Fela Kuti let me share a brief history lesson on how I was introduced to the founder of Afrobeat. I remember my first time hearing Fela’s, “Water Get No Enemy” was at APT (closed) in New York City’s meat packing district. The horns blared and everyone in the room moved and sang as I frozen standing by wondering what this new sound was that resonated with everyone. I asked Rich, “Who is this” and he replied, “Google Fela Kuti, it will change your life”.
Upon returning home I rushed to my MacBook and searched, read and downloaded everything I could about Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Fela was a Nigerian musician who pioneered Afrobeat music in the 70s. By the time I got a heard of Fela he was a musical genius but during his campaign he faced many battles with the government of Nigeria. For example, the Nigerian government raided his compound and threw his mother from a second story window that eventually lead to fatal injuries. Fela’s slogan “music is a weapon” was utilized during his efforts to make a political change in Nigeria and free the people of Africa. He would use his music to spread his message during is performances at his club The Shrine in Nigeria. There is far more to learn about Fela then I can share in the post but just like Rich told me I implore you to Google Fela and learn about this man. Recently, an award winning Broadway play “Fela on Broadway” was created to tell Fela’s story and I proudly say I’ve seen it twice on Broadway. If you have the chance to see the play please check it out as it has toured the States and Europe.
My first time attending Jump N Funk at S.O.B’s, a performance hall in Tribeca, was spell binding. Walking into a room full of adults dancing, sweating, rolling around on the floor as if their life depended on it was such an adrenaline rush. I hadn’t felt that since I was a teenager when you didn’t have a care in the world. The music he left for us to enjoy has brought together and moved so many people globally to celebrate him like we did in Los Angeles on Saturday. Jump N Funk is a monthly party in NYC but fortunately Rich blesses us out of towners and takes his show on the road.
Suited in the proper attired of t-shirt, jeans and sneakers I stepped out the house and headed to Starbucks to grab a soy milk, caffe latte with raspberry flavor. I needed a boost of energy after working on my feet all day. Walking up to Echo Plex sipping my drink I realized another thing I love about Rich Medina’s parties, he doesn’t beat you over the head with his cover charge; the cost was $10. Entering the intimate concert hall I side step and whispered, “excuse me” to people, proceeding to the stage. Rich’s lanky 6’6 frame towers over his turntables flanked by a projector screen displaying vintage movies to his right and to his left the movie maestro operator. Standing behind Rich waiting for the right moment to grab his attention to speak I tap him and he turns around and greets me with a bear hug. He probably speaks to thousands of people on a weekly basis but its pretty cool when he shows you love. I don’t think he will ever forget me, I remember telling him consecutively every time I saw him, “you’re the reason I love Fela”. Moments later the Philly native would reunite with his instruments and continue entertaining the sea of Fela worshiping partygoers and I would soon dive into the mix.
The next step is finding your spot in the crowd with just enough room to dance Five songs later I’m moving, grooving, whipping sweat from my brow then I hear a guitar followed, by drums then that saxophone! Oh my! He just played Zombie, my second favorite song by Fela. The composition of this 12-minute track keeps your feet floating off the ground instantly moving with no conscious control of your body. Rich makes it hard for you to step away from the dance floor but he made it easy presenting a trivia question to win $40 at Amoeba Records. Now mind you during this trivia break I’m literally wiping sweat from my face, forehead and scalp in one motion.
“What was the name of the song that was inspired by the government going into Fela’s toilet and taking his feces to test it for marijuana?” answer, “Expensive shit”. Back to the party and I notice all of the beautiful people moving to the pulsating sounds. With sweat drops falling over my eyelids I see afros, corn rolls, blondes, brunettes, red heads, slick backs, caesar blends, bald heads, New Era baseball caps, fedoras, twists, skull caps, buzz cuts, comb overs all moving in orchestra.
My favorite attendee was Reggae Pops. He looked liked the Jewish guy at the barbershop in Coming to America and he was getting it in!!! He danced all night, I told him he was inspiring and he told me, “I’m inspired by the people in here” which really meant the women because he was dancing with a cute girl all night long.
If you attend a party and there isn’t a YES moment during the event then you didn’t go to a true party. Fortunately, Rich played “Hot Music” by Soho, during this time I stood captured by everyone dancing soaking up the energy then POW, he put on “Superman” by Black Coffee…YES!!!!!!!!!!! The entire night was magical for me on so many levels from dancing all night, hearing great music, and meeting amazing people plus seeing my homie Rich Medina! It was so epic I had him sign a poster from the party and I’m going to get it framed!