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Jazz Fest Artists Spotlight: Reggae and Afrobeat Revolutionaries

Jazz Fest gives us the opportunity to discover musical entities outside of the familiar and become enlightened of powerful origins and messages. Three musicians, all from different countries, who will expand the minds of anyone who hears them are Seun Kuti, Steel Pulse and Cheikh Lo. Each have a common thread of reggae and social activism that so often accompanies the musical genre.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Seun Kuti New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012

Seun Kuti (Photo courtesy of nojazzfest.com)

Seun Kuti’s father Fela sometimes was known as the “Bob Marley of Africa,” but such was his force, that in Africa, they were calling Marley the “Fela of Jamaica.” His dad passed when Seun was 14, but he continued his family’s musical and political message by mixing a seductive Nigerian afrobeat with a stunning stage presence.

As a teen, he was a world class soccer player in addition to being the lead singer of his father’s original band, Egypt 80 which he continues to front. Today, he has remained at the forefront of African awareness and innovative world rhythm. See Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 perform on the Congo Square Stage at Jazz Fest on Friday, April 27.

Steel Pulse

Steel Pulse New Orleans Jazz Fest

See Steel Pulse (Photo courtesy of nojazzfest.com)

It’s hard to believe Steel Pulse has been “feeling Irie” for over 35 years. Born and raised as a band among the British punks of the ’70s, Pulse found success among a cross section of audiences, eventually winning a Grammy in 1986. As a seminal power-reggae band, they have never abandoned their social stance for equality and justice. They come to Jazz Fest on Friday, April 27 as part of an American tour that will continue on to Brazil.

Cheikh Lo

Cheikh Lo

Cheikh Lo (Photo courtesy of nojazzfest.com)

Cheikh Lô, the Senegalese reggae guitarist is a deeply religious man. A member of Baye Fall, a sect that believes that music is actual prayer, he strives in his own craft to honor that faith. He sports dreadlocks to his waist, sings and plays drums as well. His musical style that is at once maverick and at the same time a compendium of West African and Cuban influences.

Cheikh Lo plays Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 28 on the Congo Square Stage at 1:40 p.m. Feel the spirit of his music infiltrate your senses.

This is part of a series covering the artists on the 2012 New Orleans Jazz Festival lineup. Read about all the other awesome Jazz Fest acts we’ve featured.