Global music stars and stakeholders will converge this Sunday on the Staples Centre, Los Angeles, United States of America, for the industry’s grandest and most glamorous backslapping ritual and reward ceremony, the Grammy Awards. But Nigerian Afrobeat star, Femi Kuti, who is nominated in the World Music category, will not be there. Rather, he will be ensconced in the New Afrika Shrine, Agidingbi, Lagos, performing for his throng of devotees and fans.
This much was revealed to E-Punch by the older sister of the 49-year-old singer, Yeni. “Femi will not be attending the Grammy awards. He is in Nigeria at the moment but he says he does not see any reason to attend because of his earlier experience. I tried to convince him but you know Femi, he can be unbending sometimes. His argument is that he cannot travel all the way to Los Angeles and come back empty handed,” says the gracefully ageing woman who was the lead dancer in Femi’s Positive Band.
When E-Punch probed her further on whether there was a likelihood of the singer having a change of mind, she says, “Well, I have sent a mail to his record label to ask if they have any plans for him, but as at now (Wednesday noon), I have not got any reply.” Yeni promised to get across to E-Punch if there was any development.
Those who know the singer are not entirely surprised at his decision to shun the 54th edition of the Grammy Awards. Last year also, he refused to attend. Femi, who is taking a third shot at the coveted awards, has been twice unlucky – in 2003 and 2010. His first outing at the awards in 2003 left a bitter taste in his mouth.
In an earlier interview, Femi is quoted as saying, “When I arrived at the red carpet, nobody came for me, my record company didn’t come, I felt stupid and so I knew I could not win. I sacked my manager, a French man, and they sacked me too. The journey back home was very long. I felt sad. Since then I vowed never to attend the Grammy Awards again. My father never went for any awards and where they presented him an award, he didn’t go personally and when they brought the award to him, he would send them back with the award. One day, I was at the World Music Awards and I brought the awards. He asked, “Did I send you? You better take it back. As I grew older, I understood what he was saying then.”
In the World Music category, Femi’s Africa for Africa album wil be contending with Malian band, Tinariwen’sTassili; Latin/Roots music band, AfroCubism’s eponymous album; and South African male choral group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Songs From a Zulu Farm. Interestingly, Africa for Africa, which was released in Europe and the US by Femi’s American label, Knitting Factory Records, has yet to be released in Africa.