Femi Kuti performed at the Shrine tonight in Ikeja, my first night in Lagos.
Not crowded. Few people dancing. Those who were were almost exclusively men, high and freestyling as if at a Grateful Dead show.
I went to the green room to say hello to Femi before the show. When he walked in the room, I detected a brief flash of recognizance on his part to our first meeting and interview in mid-2002. “What are you doing in Nigeria?” he asked me. I explained the nature of the story, examining the legacy of his father through him, his brother Seun, and some of the “disciples” of his sound like Lagbaja and Asa. I barely got through the first syllable of Asa when he said “I am not a disciple,” and walked out of the room. I felt a rush of heat across my face as other people in the green room suspected I had said something that chased him away. But a few minutes later he returned with a takeaway box from Tastee Fried Chicken, and he sat on the couch. Before opening the box, he said something to me about the word “disciple,” so I went to sit next to him. I apologized for using a word that obviously perturbed him and which has a slightly cultish connotation. He gave me a brief lecture on what “disciple” means — follower, true believer, etcetera — and then I urged him to eat his dinner. He said he couldn’t eat in the room with all these people, and he left again.
Femi has been sick for several months — he cancelled several dates earlier this year — and he did not appear himself, either in the green room, or on stage.
But the scene at the Afrika Shrine is fascinating, from the girl dancers in the 2X4 and fishnet go-go cages to the little scrums of Area Boys selling ganja on the VIP level. More to come on the place as I explore it this week.