Femi Abosede is the King of Afrobeat in North America .
There¹s no question of his authentic claim to the crown. Born during times of social and political change in the 1960's in Lagos, Nigeria, Abosede was brought up in a traditional Yoruba family, by strong parents that encouraged his best in life¹s endeavours. He was born to make his mark on the world.
Abosede was exposed to music at a very early age. His father studied classical music by correspondence from Trinity College of Music in England. Though he harboured a similar hope for his son¹s musical direction, Femi found his own route. Like many jazz, soul and funk greats, Abosede first came fully to music in the church, where he began singing at the tender age of eight under the direction of the late S.O. Phillips. Convincing his father about his keenness, Femi then began his first formal musical tutoring with the late Pa Fayemi, who offered bi-weekly music lessons.
As a youth, Abosede was introduced to the great Afrobeat originator, free thinker, outlaw and social activist Fela Kuti, and spent much of his time as a teenager at his infamous Shrine and Kalakuta compound. There, Abosede experienced Fela¹s vibrant attacks on governmental hypocrisy, his support of the pan-African struggle for liberation, and most of all, his propulsive, life-enhancing music.
Abosede says, Just by my observing him, Fela taught me to work tirelessly and passionately on my craft. It is my own music, but Fela helped me open my eyes to world conditions, and find my own voice to speak on them.
Passionate and outspoken, Abosede refused to be silenced by political bureaucracy, and in the mid-80's left his homeland for England. There, he pawned his keyboard for a saxophone and taught himself to play. Later, in 1989, he moved to the United States and began playing with Ghanaian reggae group, Culture Shock. Finally moving to Toronto, he formed the Culture Force band in 1999, to play raw Afrobeat at its best.
With such life experience, it¹s no wonder that the music on Abosede¹s new album, No Compromise, springs from a deep well of social conscience. With hypnotic rhythms and a profound social message, Abosede has moved beyond his influences and created his own unique brand of Afrobeat and jazz.
The power of No Compromise is undeniable, as Abosede and Culture Force lay down an explosive sound that makes people want to get up and dance. Urgent, rhythmic drumming combines with delicate, chicken-scratch guitars and muscular bass lines; this sets the stage for the punchy horns and tight backing vocals to establish the melody, with Abosede¹s authoritative voice on top of it all. Bata Dance and Emotion call to mind King Sunny Ade or Tabu Ley Rochereau, while African People finds Abosede directing his 15-member band on the fly, in a style reminiscent (and worthy) of James Brown.
I feel I have a richer sound with a larger band, says Abosede. The quality of the music, the aura of the music and the dancers create a joyful experience for the people attending my shows or listening to my music.
On No Compromise, Abosede rails against corruption throughout his homeland in Nigerian Government ; documents American racism in Wonder Morning ; and ultimately, holds out hope for a better future in African People. All of these songs come straight from the heart. I am African, so I can¹t help but be influenced by own culture, says Abosede, But I am also very aware of conditions around this world that we all share. I endeavour to raise my own social and spiritual consciousness and my hope is that my music reaches others and raises their social and spiritual consciousness as well.
In the band¹s debut year, Abosede won a prestigious Toronto African Music Award (TAMA) for Best New Artist. He has since played the Mariposa Folk Festival, AfroFest in Toronto, and many other high-profile performances across Canada.
Few people in life recognize, understand or even pursue their purpose; not so Femi Abosede. With his righteous rebel stance, musical gift and rugged determination, it may not be long until this Afrobeat Maestro fully claims his title, for one and all to see.