When talking about the Soul Power festival, it takes you back to 1974, Zaire 1974 when the Godfather of Soul James Brown gave an electric performance in the Democratic Republic of Congo alongside an array of some of the greatest musicians from the United States and Africa.
This was in the run up to Mohamed Ali’s big boxing fight against George Foreman to reclaim the Heavyweight Championship title.
But it didn’t end there. The festival is now being held mostly in the United States and right here in Africa. Pointe Noire, the economic capital of neighbouring Republic of Congo plays host to this festival, now in it’s fifth edition.
The three day event includes performances from local artists and international acts.
This year’s edition was graced by the legendary bandleader and trombonist Fred Wesley with the new JB’s band.
“You know, the band keeps the fire burning and the audience keeps the fire burning. When I get on the stage and the band hits, I’ll suddenly be rejuvenated. And the audience applause is an automatic rejuvenation. As long as the audience keeps screaming and the band keeps playing, I’ll keep doing it too.”
Best known for his work with James Brown in the 1960s and 1970s, the renowned jazz and funk artist is well known for his electrifying performances with various artists in the United States.
“I can do both. I love both. I love jazz a little more and I love funk. But funk is what makes the money. I have a new album coming out. It’s blues, sort of funky but it’s a blues album, it’s got some blue tunes on it like big leg Emma’s house, Put on your red dress baby, tobacco road. Some great blues songs. That’s the sad direction I’ll be going into. It’s been all from funk. But I still play jazz, I play jazz every chance I get. I work with a lot of other people. Percy Mayfield, Curtis Mayfield, Wilson Pickett and a lot of them. Parliament Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band,” he said.
Performing in the country for the second time after his 2014 performance, he says Africa reminds him a lot of the 1974 festival which is still fresh in the minds of those who attended.
But Wesley has some misgivings about the music industry today.
“Well you know right now, the music that’s popular now, I don’t think it’s really music. It’s more production and more dancing. There’s still some music in it but, I think the real music kind of stopped back in the day when the Isley Brothers were singing and Marvin Gay was playing. When you had to put songs together to be a song. I don’t understand the music of the day. I don’t think it’s really music.”
The JBs Band that plays alongside the greatest trombonist of all time consists of instrumentalists drawn from different parts of the world. Germany, Austria and the United States.
According to them, they find fulfillment in entertaining crowds all around the world with their skills and are not about to end anytime soon.
And during the event, budding artists were also able to showcase their skills with the band!
The legend was also able to perform at a much anticipated concert that brought together jazz and funk lovers in the country.
Organizers of the Congo Soul Power fesival are optimistic about its future.
They hope to continue to bring great international acts to the continent, for a moment of fun just like in 1974.