University of Vermont

Center for Cultural Pluralism

'Full Professor' Lecture to Look at the Invention of Afrobeat

Who put the "beat" in afrobeat? Alexander Stewart, professor of music and dance, will explore this question in a public lecture, "Groove Theory: Fela Kuti, James Brown, and the Invention of Afrobeat," to be held Monday, Nov. 4 at 4 p.m. in Memorial Lounge, Waterman Building.

The talk is the next installment of the College of Arts and Sciences Full Professor Lecture Series, which celebrates the promotion of the college's faculty to that title.

An important shift occurred in West African popular music in the late 1960s, Stewart says, as many musicians looked less to Europe and its former colonies in the Caribbean and began to draw inspiration directly from African-American cultures in the U.S. Stewart's talk explores Fela Anikulapo Kuti's seemingly paradoxical adoption of American funk grooves in his quest to further "Africanize" his music.

Stewart has published articles on jazz, popular music and music of Latin America. His book, Making the Scene: Contemporary New York City Big Band Jazz, was published in 2007 by the University of California Press. During 2006-07 he was a Fulbright Scholar, researching Afro-Mexican music and culture in Oaxaca and Guerrero, Mexico. A saxophonist, he has played, recorded, and toured with many leading figures in jazz and popular music. He currently performs with the Latin Jazz group Salsa Norte┼ła.

A recording of the lecture will be made available at the College of Arts and Sciences online media blog.