Afreeka Santa Fe: promoting musical education

A small but enthusiastic crowd turned out Saturday to enjoy African art, poetry, dance and jazzy Afrobeat music at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe in the Railyard.  The celebration honored the late Afrobeat pioneer and human-rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The event was sponsored by Afreeka Santa Fe, a 3-month-old project to raise funds and collect musical instruments for African schools.

Nziki Tadfor, left, and Ahmed Obo joke around while Tadfor sells her father’s artwork. Dancers, artists and drummers celebrated the life of activist Fela Kuti and raised funds to help set up music programs for African schools. - Natalie Guillén/The New Mexican

Afreeka Santa Fe organizer Kamajou Tadfor said few countries in Africa offer formal music or art education in their schools or colleges. Most musicians are self-taught, he said.

Though brass instruments, guitars and drums are some of the usual instruments played in Africa, Tadfor said, there is not a single college with an art or music program in his native Cameroon.

“I would like to send instruments back there, help them set up bands,” Tadfor said. He hopes to collect all types of instruments, music books, and perhaps music tutorial videos, and begin working with a few schools at a time to establish programs. He thinks expanding the scope of music African children and youth hear and play will broaden their world.

Tadfor said he comes from a background in theater. He also worked in the hospitality industry in the U.S. and Cameroon for two decades. He owned The Thando Hut, a bar and restaurant in Buea, Cameroon.

Tadfor’s organization does not yet have nonprofit status, and donations for Afreeka Santa Fe are handled through its fiscal sponsor, the nonprofit Tarnoff Art Center in Rowe.

Afreeka Santa Fe’s mission, according to Tadfor, is “to promote awareness and foster friendship between Santa Fe and the African continent. We organize symposia, art and musical [events] and travel exchanges.”

Fela Anikulapo Kuti, known to his fans simply as Fela, was born in Nigeria and sent to London to study medicine. He gravitated to music instead and founded a band, Koola Lobitos, to play a unique jazz fusion.

When he returned to Africa, he used his music as a vehicle to sing out against the oppression in his country and elsewhere. His life and music are portrayed in the three-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Fela!

Tadfor is a staunch fan of Fela Kuti’s music and activism. Saturday would have been Fela’s 73rd birthday — he died in August 1997 — and Tadfor thought it the perfect day to celebrate the musician’s life.

“Fela went to Trinity College [in London]. He studied classical music. When he returned to Africa, he became active in social justice. He used his music for education and to empower people,” Tadfor said.

Source – The New Mexican – Staci Matlock, October 15, 2011