Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with guest artists celebrate the musical legacy of Afrobeat icon: FELA KUTI.
Continuing the conversation between Afro Latin Jazz and genres of music drawn from the musical roots of Africa, now comes the Afrobeat style pioneered by the great Fela Kuti. Multi-Grammy Winners Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra host guest artists Wunmi, Sahr Ngaujah, Tosin Aribisala, Bryan Vargas, and DJ Ausar, who have continued Fela's musical legacy.
The show will feature Jazz Big Band arrangements of some of Fela's classics including Zombie, Water No Get Enemy, Expensive Sh*t, as well as original works by the ALJO and guests.
Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
GRAMMY Award winning pianist, composer and educator Arturo O'Farrill -- leader of the "first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz" (New York Times) -- was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Son of the late, great composer Chico O'Farrill, Arturo was educated at Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He played piano in Carla Bley's Big Band from 1979 through 1983 and earned a reputation as a soloist in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte. In 2002, he established the GRAMMY® winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in order to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin jazz to a wider general audience, and to greatly expand the contemporary Latin jazz big band repertoire through commissions to artists across a wide stylistic and geographic range.
Following his 2009 GRAMMY® Award for "Best Latin Jazz Album" for the Orchestra’s debut recording, Song for Chico (ZOHO), O'Farrill has received numerous GRAMMY® wins for The Offense of the Drum ("Best Latin Jazz Album"), Cuba: The Conversation Continues ("The Afro Latin Jazz Suite," "Best Instrumental Composition"), and his album with Chucho Valdés, Familia: Tribute to Bebo & Chico, won a GRAMMY® Award in the "Best Instrumental Composition" category for his composition, “Three Revolutions.” Cuba: The Conversation Continues won a 2016 Latin GRAMMY® for "Best Latin Jazz Album." In September 2018, O’Farrill released his latest album, Fandango at the Wall: A Soundtrack for the United States, Mexico, and Beyond, featuring the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Antonio Sanchez, Regina Carter, Akua Dixon, Mandy Gonzalez, Patricio Hidalgo, Rahim AlHaj, and Ramón Gutiérrez Hernández.
Arturo O'Farrill is on the faculty of The Manhattan School of Music and The New School. O’Farrill is a Steinway Artist.
Hailed on the “Best Of” lists by The New York Times, TIME Magazine, Time Out NY and New York Magazine, Fela! told the triumphant story of Fela Kuti with the inimitable Sahr Ngaujah portraying the Afrobeat legend (Ngaujah received a Tony nomination for “Best Actor in a Leading Role”). Ngaujah’s breathtaking performances brought to life the true story of Fela Kuti’s courage, passion and love for music and humankind. Following Fela!’s successful Broadway run, Ngaujah has since appeared in television shows such as Luke Cage, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Good Wife. In film, he’s been in the Sundance hit Patti Cake$, as well as Jodie Foster’s Money Monster and Freeheld (opposite Julianne Moore and Ellen Page). Ngaujah also originated the role of “Toulouse-Lautrec” in the world premiere out of town production of Moulin Rouge under the direction of Alex Timbers, which debuted on Broadway in summer 2018. He will next be seen starring in Athol Fugard’s Boesman & Lena at the Signature Theater off-Broadway.
Ngaujah joins O’Farrill and the special guests to perform select classics and obscure songs from Fela Kuti’s famed catalogue. ALJO + AFROBEAT = FELA! will put the spotlight on compositions such as “Zombie,” “Expensive Shit,” “Water Get No Enemy,” “Colonial Mentality,” “Shakara,” and others.
Born in London and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Wunmi’s work draws from the sounds, styles and ethics of Afrobeat. Through her reworks of Fela Kuti’s “Expensive Shit” and “Zombie,” she contributed to the acclaimed Kuti tribute project, Red Hot + Riot. Along with running her clothing line Wow Wow, she’s commissioned dance works for Nora Chipamuire and Ron Brown (for Urban Dance Women and Alvin Ailey Dance Company), written songs in collaboration with Roy Ayers, opened for King Sunny Ade’s 70th birthday NYC show, and danced in Soul II Soul’s music video for “Back To Life.” Wunmi is also a featured artist on tracks by some of House music’s reigning producers, including Masters at Work and Osunlade.
Gilles Peterson lauded Wunmi’s debut album, A.L.A. (African Living Abroad), as “an essential release from a unique artist.” Her 2014 album, See Me, was produced by Ghanaian producer Kwame Yeboah; who is known as a member of the Afropop band, Osibisa, and his recent work with Ghanaian highlife singer Pat Thomas who appeared with his Kwashiebu band.
Composer, vocalist and percussionist Tosin Aribisala’s music speaks to his African origin and deep appreciation for jazz. Growing up in Nigeria, Tosin’s compositional pedigree is comprised of African rhythms and lyrics of hope, love and human realities. He’s been a member of Femi Kuti’s band, and has performed/recorded/toured with the likes of Antibalas, Taj Mahal, Baaba Maal,Carolyn Malachi, Fatoumata Diawara, Spyro Gyra,and Yerba Buena. Tosin performed on several tracks on Red Hot + Riot, he’s appeared on MTV’s “Real World” performing his Drum Monologue, and Ropeadope released his latest album, Afrika Rising, in June 2018.
In addition O’Farrill as the Musical Director of ALJO + AFROBEAT = FELA!, guitarist Bryan Vargas and DJ Ausar contribute to the conceptual vision of the production. The original guitarist for the revered Afrobeat band Antibalas, Vargas performed “tenor” guitar for Fela! and served as the Assistant Music Director for the musical’s American touring production. Vargas leads the band Chop & Quench (The Fela! Band), which features the band and cast members from Fela!. Vargas is a former student of O’Farrill’s, and Vargas’ debut album, Afro Latino Soul, was produced by O’Farrill. Vargas currently can be seen performing with bolero revivalists Miramar, among others.
A tastemaker DJ at Atlanta’s WRFG 89.3, DJ Ausar created “The Kalakuta Show” as a vehicle for social movement by blending Afrobeat, funk, jazz, rare grooves, and Broken beats from all over the world. As a member of the DJ/Producer crew Vinyl JunkiesClick (VJC Recordings), DJ Ausar has spun with the likes of Hugh Masekela, Roy Ayers, Blitz The Ambassador,Wunmi,andDaz-I-Kue of Bugz in the Attic. DJ Ausar’s original compositions will provide the soundtrack as attendees enter Symphony Space as well as throughout the concerts’ intermissions.
The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance’s (ALJA) annual live performance season includes quarterly concerts with Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra appearing with a rotating cast of renowned guest artists. With more than 30 special programs presented at Symphony Space and select venues such as The Apollo Theater, ALJA has partnered with the biggest names in jazz and beyond for more than a decade. At its core, the ALJA performance series serves as a platform for O’Farrill to workshop and debut awe-inspiring arrangements, many of which later appear on award-winning recordings.
Don’t miss one of winter’s most anticipated shows in New York City featuring O’Farrill live in concert with many of today’s Afrobeat stars!
Afro Latin Jazz Alliance
The non-profit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) was established by Arturo O'Farrill in 2007 to promote Afro Latin Jazz through a comprehensive array of performance and education programs. ALJA produces the Orchestra's annual performance season at Symphony Space and other venues in NYC, and maintains a weekly engagement for the Orchestra at the famed jazz club Birdland. The Alliance also maintains a world-class collection of Latin jazz musical scores and recordings. ALJA's education programs include the Afro Latin Jazz Academy of Music (ALJAM); an in-school residency program serving public schools citywide with instrumental and ensemble instruction, and the pre-professional youth orchestra, the Fat Afro Latin Jazz Cats, which prepares the next generation of musicians. The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance maintains an administrative office inside the historic Minisink Townhouse in Central Harlem. For more information on the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, please visit afrolatinjazz.org.
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
Expected Run Time is 180 minutes