April 28, 2011 / 1:58 PM / in 7 years

Nigeria's Femi Kuti lauded as best World Music artist

LONDON (Reuters) - Nigerian singer Femi Kuti was named Best Artist in Songlines magazine’s annual world music awards, winning praise for dynamic songs that railed against corruption and repression in Africa.

Nigerian musician Femi Kuti performs during celebrations for Africa Day in Johannesburg May 25, 2007. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Kuti had stepped out of the shadow of his father, the legendary Fela Kuti, with his album “Africa for Africa,” Songlines said.

“Songs like “Politics in Africa,” “Can’t Buy Me” and “Bad Government” all serve to underline his utter disdain for the corrupt politicians of his native Nigeria and other African nations — a theme that continues to be pertinent today with events happening across North Africa and Ivory Coast,” it said.

English folk band Bellowhead was named as Best Group, AfroCubism as Best Cross-Cultural Collaboration, and Indian singer Raghu Dixit as Best Newcomer.

Bellowhead, whose current album is called “Hedonism,” is known for rambunctious live shows in which the 11 members swap instruments and perform in various combinations.

“Their live shows have been sensational,” Songlines publisher Simon Broughton told Reuters.

AfroCubism brought together musicians from Cuba and Mali in a long-delayed project. They had originally planned to record in Havana 14 years ago but the Malians didn’t make it and the Cubans went on to record the enormously successful “Buena Vista Social Club.”

The collaboration was finally realized when they met in Madrid in 2009 and they have been touring since then with their fusion of music from both sides of the Atlantic.

Raghu Dixit hails from the south Indian state of Karnataka. and is already a big star back home.

“The music is Indian folk-rock — very accessible to a Western audience,” Broughton said.

The nominees are selected Songlines readers, with the final decision made by the magazine’s editors.

Broughton said the world music scene was thriving even though it faced problems common across the music industry such as the closing of independent record shops and the downloading of music for free.

“The live scene is driving it,” he said. “Every week in London there are big name artists from all around the world playing. People have the opportunity to see the big names and the new names.”

He also said the role of musicians in recent popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt showed their relevance beyond just entertainment.

Speaking of Femi Kuti, he said: “This album is very angry and it really sounds like Lagos — quite rough at the edges. And the message is Africa has to look after itself.”

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