My Friend Fela, by Brazilian director Joel Zito Araújo, will premiere in the United States on Monday, January 20, at 8:00pm (ET) on WORLD Channel and worldchannel.org. The film follows Afrobeat musician and musical innovator Fela Kuti’s friend and official biographer, African-Cuban writer Carlos Moore (author of Fela: This Bitch of a Life), who explores “the politics, cultural movements, and the personal connections and tragedies that shaped Fela’s music and helped him reach international superstardom.”
My Friend Fela is the season opener of season 12 of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. It will air with Birth of Afrobeat by Opiyo Okeyo, a short animated/live-action hybrid film exploring legendary drummer Tony Allen and his work with Fela to help create the Afrobeat genre. AfroPoP will continue with new episodes every Monday through February 17, 2020, with stories from Brazil, Liberia, Turkey, South Africa and the United States. [The film premiered last year in Europe at International Film Festival Rotterdam.]
Description: Music and the sounds of revolution are in the air as the 12th season of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange opens with an episode saluting the work and lives of the originators of the Afrobeat music genre, Fela Kuti and Tony Allen. Premiering on WORLD Channel at 8 p.m. ET (10 p.m. PT) on January 20, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the AfroPoP season opener features Joel Zito Araújo’s documentary film My Friend Fela about the African musical icon followed by Birth of Afrobeat, a short film from director Opiyo Okeyo telling the story of drummer and Fela collaborator, Tony Allen. Produced by Black Public Media (BPM) and co-presented by distributor American Public Television (APT), AfroPoP has brought real stories of life, art and culture in the modern African Diaspora to public television audiences for more than a decade.
In My Friend Fela, director Joel Zito Araújo follows Carlos Moore — a close friend and the official biographer of Fela, as well as friend to major, international black figures like Malcolm X and Maya Angelou — as he explores the many unknown aspects of the legendary musician’s life. To counter what Araújo notes is the popular narrative of Fela as the “eccentric African pop idol of the ghetto,” photos, archival interviews and Moore’s own personal conversations with Fela’s wives, family and bandmates, bring viewers a seldom seen side of the revolutionary artist’s life and music. Likewise, as Moore delves into the Nigerian political strife during Fela’s life and the Pan-African theories which shaped his beliefs and bled into his music, a nuanced profile of a musical revolutionary and champion of the people emerges.
The premiere episode will conclude with the short film Birth of Afrobeat. The live-action and animation hybrid captures the story of iconic drummer Tony Allen as he records the album What Goes Up with the American band Chicago Afrobeat Project in 2017 and discusses how he and Fela pioneered the Afrobeat genre.
“Season 12 launches with two films that pay tribute to the enduring legacy of two cultural trailblazers and the music they created which has done so much to unite people around the world around political struggles and shared realities,” said Black Public Media Executive Director and Leslie Fields-Cruz.
Other episodes in season 12 of AfroPoP include Amina by Kivilcim Akay (January 27), a moving look at the life of a Senegalese immigrant living in Turkey and trying to pursue her dreams in the face of growing obstacles; Daddy and the Warlord by Shamira Raphaëla and Clarice Gargard (February 3), which follows Gargard on a trip to postwar Liberia to uncover the truth about her father’s involvement with the infamous war criminal Charles Taylor; Gilda Brasileiro: Against Oblivion from Viola Scheuerer and Roberto Manhães Reis (February 10), a profile of one woman’s quest to challenge a culture wishing to ignore its ties to slavery after she discovers documents exposing an illegal 19th century slave-trading post in the Brazilian rainforest; and the season finale episode (February 17) which includes Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela, director Thomas Allen Harris’s personal documentary profiling his stepfather, B. Pule Leinaeng (“Lee”) and his fight against apartheid as a foot solider in the African National Congress, paired with Spit on the Broom by Madeleine Hunt-Erlich, an experimental short film on the United Order of Tents, a clandestine organization of Black American women organized in the 1840s during the height of the Underground Railroad.
Each episode of season 12 of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange will also be available for streaming on worldchannel.org beginning on the day of its broadcast premiere.
AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is co-executive produced by Leslie Fields-Cruz and Angela Tucker. The program is produced and directed by Duana C. Butler with the generous support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Click here for a sneak peek at the first episode of AfroPoP’s 12th season featuring My Friend Fela and Birth of Afrobeat.