Friday, October 13, 2006


Tribute to Abami's Dancing Queens

In Afrobeat, dance is the sister to the music. No african musician infused the two as a main stay in their act better than Fela (and now Femi). Back then it was Fela and his girls, now we talk about Femi and his girls. Growing up I remember watching URTNA and music interludes on NTA. Fela was one of the musicians that would show up. Back then I did not appreciate the music genre and thought he was the worst singer because his voice was so croaked up from smoking and then the songs were boringly long. But the only thing that would hold my attention were the half-naked, chalk-dotted faced women dressed in nothing but beads. Some times we would be lucky to catch them topless with great big breasts jiggling to the rhythm of the drumbeat. This forbidden sight, watching naked breasts, could get you a sound beating in my house but somehow we found our way around it and by hiding behind the chair when we were sent to our room. I used to secretly wish that I could be so free-spirited and dance like them, shake and wriggle my tiny body as gracefully as they did. But their reputation of being nothing but mere prostitutes and wayward girls, the drugs and the kind of dance they did...welll ya'll know that story. I eventually got a chance to dance as wildly one christmas when I insisted on joining the girls' dance troupe in my village. I was only 8 or 9 and my cousin and I had a blast. By 10 I decided I was a babe and was not going to parade my self to make money. Then I set my eyes for the Cultural dance troupe, but tribalism was at play as the dances were traditional yoruba dance, it appeared only Yoruba girls could be in the troupe. Their non-yoruba friends ended up drumming or shaking the shekere. By the time I got into SS1 little did I know that I would be forced into heading the Igbo Cultural dance troupe at my secondary school. It was fun but I had to sum up courage and confidence to do that. I loved it and when I got to UNC it was no surprise that I would start dancing again and even got some professional training first with some random modern dance teacher with the NC Dance theater of Charlotte and then a student with Durham's Chuck Davis Dance company.
Every where I hear drums, I find it hard to just nod my head and tap my feet. I have been told by one pastor that I was possessed by dancing spirits. Even though he wa strying to be funny, I couldn't agree with him more. There are dancing spirits inside me, Fela's girls moving and shaking, dust rising at every stump of my feet. When I hear the sound of the drums, it is like a call.... 'rise up and dance.' Like a Zombie, every dead bone wakes up tothe beat.

If you have seen any of the videos or stage performances by the Kuti's you know for certain that there is no ounce of dead bone in them. They took their dancing seriously and most of all that's really what got them off the streets. I don't need to go into the negative aspects of the 'Fela Girl Syndrome' but all I have to say is that we start giving them credit for exporting african culture, rather than debase them because of the circumstances of life. After all no be condition make crayfish bend. They were as much the attraction as was Fela and his music. Below are some photos that I found. There aren't that many of them on stage online. If anyone finds some, please alert me.

Fela and His Wives
by Derek Stanovsky

Ngozi's Story of life as a Fela girl

Daddy's girl Yeni Kuti the AFROBEAT DANCE PRINCESS is working hard to reverse the perception of being a dancer at Fela's Shrine. She is also trying to make dancing recognized. I am not sure how far she has gone to establish her dance school/classes as the article states, but ladies in Lagos, ya'll need to take advantage of it because dancing is a way to get toned, keep fit and shed pounds.

Check out Femi's Dancers at WOMAD 2006 (his girls are the hottest dancers on earth...Beyonce has nothing on them)

While we are on teh topic of dancing, do check out the fire dancers of UNC, OASIS's very own dance troupe now known as ZANKILIWA (Addy and company used to get down on some djembes and makossa way back when it was just 'oasis members present a dance' some how i ended up making this post about how i love to hope you enjoyed it the way na me dey fly like atilogwu dancer for that first picture:)



PSB said...

Could those Chicks move or what? And all with a smile on their faces! Pure, innate talent!I would definitely sign up for those classes!I think someone in Nolly Wood should do a biopic on Fela or one of his wives/dancers maybe Ngozi can serve as a consultant on the project...hmmmm..who would play Fela? I am sure that I am not the only thats thought of it! But it would so nice to see that happen. Look at all the information Adaure has gathered?..WOW.. Where were you when I was writing my Fela paper in college...LOL

Amazing pictures!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to point out that the very last picture of Femi's dancers is of Funke, Femi's ex-wife and mother of his beloved only son, Made. Theirs was quite an interesting breakup (anyone who's interested, just ask me if you'd like some more details, I'll hook you up - but not here), but I think they were a great couple while it lasted. She doesn't dance at the Shrine anymore (big surprise) but thankfully she's not letting all that talent go to waste. She's established a dance school. Adaure, thanks again for taking us to the school of Fela. So cool!

kulutempa said...

men, despite being extreme locitos, these babes were fly! so stylish! and gorgeous!