The Overflowing Rhythm of Femi Koya


Nigerian-born, South African-reborn jazz musician Femi Koya had the audience on their feet in his performance in the Standard Bank Jazz Festival on Friday 6 July at the DSG hall.

Koya offered pieces from his latest album Village Afrobeat, along with some from his debut album Iba, a homage to late Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. He opened his set with his unique twist to Kuti’s Palava. The song originally created to challenge people to stop seeking out trouble, Koya reiterated this by using the analogy of a mouse biting a cat’s tail and the consequences which follow from that. The trumpet solo, not to be outdone leaves the rhythm of the remix of Palava to rise above the other instruments. Pulling it back quickly, the dancing continues on stage and off.

Koya takes his solos with soul and flare. Enjoying the music just as much as the audience does, he dances easily across the stage, engaging with his band and making the audience want to dance along. Some do, standing and joining in with the afro-jazz beats, ready to make a dancer out of anyone.

Femi Koya enjoying the music with his bass guitarist. Photo by Shraddha Patnala

Koya told tales of his childhood in Nigeria. Sharing fondly (through song), the discussions that would be held in the days leading up to the market day. He told of the village entertainers who would make sure every market day was an enjoyable one. A true entertainer himself, he saunters across the stage, putting down his saxophone for a band mate’s shaker, adding a nostalgic rhythm to this tale.

Femi Koya’s backing vocalists and instrumentalists. Photo by Shraddha Patnala

The audience thoroughly enjoyed every long note held by Koya – showing his musical prowess, bobbing his shoulders while his sax stood out from the rest of the band – rewarding his efforts with cheers. It’s enjoyable to watch an artist revel in the rhythm of their own music.

Koya was kind enough to give us a taste of Lagos through his later songs.  A fan favourite Shakara had the show running over by more than 20 minutes. No one complained and very few left. Koya had hearts overflowing with rhythm. His music moves one to dance and simply be in a moment of pure bliss. Afro-jazz is legendary and Koya is as skillful and soulful as they come.

Catch Femi Koya at the DSG Hall on 7 July at 12:00

By Karabo Baloyi