Friday, July 17, 2009

Soul Power: A Gem From Zaire 1974

While the 1970's bring back unsettling memories of dictatorship and conflict rooted in latent colonialism, the decade also produced remarkable films and some memorable concerts. Jeffrey Levi-Hinte's new documentary "Soul Power" offers a fascinating window into Afro American and Caribbean music as it was performed live in concert in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974. Originally planned to coincide with the "Rumble in the Jungle," i.e. the world heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman,- captured majestically in Leon Gast's remarkable 1996 documentary "When We Were Kings"- the concert actually preceded the title bout by several weeks due to Foreman's eye injury. The entire event now seems wholly improbable. Conceived and financed by Liberian seed money and staged with the authorization of the Zairean tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko, the concert featured top U.S. soul acts like James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers, the legendary Cuban salsa queen Celia Cruz, the incredible salsa aggregation The Fania All Stars with Cruz and Hector Lavoe, and American blues guitar king B.B. King. This unique and powerful documentary opened last week on the coasts. Unfortunately, I'll be waiting for it to come out on DVD.


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