One Night in Harlem

The first time I discovered Fela Kuti, I remember feeling like I struck gold. I hit the music jackpot by uncovering the Afrobeat pioneer. It didn’t take long to understand that he is a massive legend and that I was hardly unique in being a fan. But he was new to me and I was thrilled.

Then I learned that he had a son named Femi, who was playing at the famed Apollo Theater. Although Femi was an established artist independent of his father’s legacy, I felt awestruck by the possibility of seeing Fela’s son. One quick call to my friend in the music industry and I had a pair of tickets.

Before the show, I dined with Katie – my companion (and I Loved NY scribe) at Amy Ruths on 116th Street. A true southern restaurant with all the fixings: catfish, collard greens, okra, candied yams and chicken and waffles. Come to think of it, waffles with anything – rib eye steak, shrimp or fried chicken wings. Salty and sweet does make sense. I ordered an ice tea to start and automatically added a packet of sugar. Upon first sip, I realized the tea was already sweetened and that my teeth might just fall out. I drank the entire glass. After the fried food and sweet tea, we welcomed the 9 block walk north to the Apollo.

Entering the building, it was easy to feel that you were in a special place. Knowing the talent that preformed in the music hall – Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, James Brown and Marvin Gaye, was magical. I was a little fidgety through the opening acts because I was so excited for Femi to perform. And then suddenly he appeared on stage like a force and I was on my feet.

The energy that radiated from that man was incredible. Backed up by a 17-person band known as the Positive Force, the entire Apollo was under his spell. Shirtless, he was strong, confident and sexual. His lyrics told the same tale:

She said, love me now [beng beng beng]
She said, squeeze me now [beng beng beng]
To the left now, don’t slow down now [beng beng beng]
To the right now, don’t come too fast [beng beng beng]

But mostly it was Femi’s dancers that demanded my attention; I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Their moves were fluid, fast and beautiful and they oozed erotic seductiveness. Their thick, fit bodies, outfitted in bright, colorful, African costumes were mesmerizing. They didn’t stop dancing the entire show.

That evening – much like any New York evening, worlds converged in Harlem. Amy Ruth from Alabama, Femi Kuti from Nigeria and two Midwest transplants experiencing all the city has to offer. It was truly an unforgettable evening.

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Robin Zakoura, A Midwest friend, New Yorker, Bumble & bumble Vet, wine enthusiast, herbal food chick + author of the brilliant lifestyle blog entitled; lateblooms.

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