A documentary about historical, once-in-lifetime concert where some of greatest Afro- American musicians performed in front of 100 000 Ghana audience as part of country's independence celebration. According to booklet, this idea has been in making for some time before all the necessary arrangements made it possible (Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Louis Armstrong were among invited) until in 1971. finally everything fell in the place. Locals were overjoyed to see American stars ascending in the middle of Ghana and clearly excited, welcomed them as royalty, as long gone members of family - for musicians, on the other hand, this was cathartic experience as they visited Africa for the first time.
To say this documentary is fascinating would be understatement - you could watch it again and again, always finding new details about people's reactions, their faces, smiles and sorrows. DVD commentaries are also very illuminating as musicians reminisce about this visit and how they saw it. Most of American musicians knew nothing about African music but to be honest audience in Ghana seems to be not familiar with them either - except Wilson Pickett whom they saw as Soul God (and watched him with mouth open), however the welcome at the airport was clearly spontaneously joyous and heartfelt. Ghana was not a wealthy place but locals gave what they had in abundance - music, song and dance, prompting American visitors to join them in celebration. Movie follows American crew as they spend few days in Ghana, visiting local villages and places before they actually performed on concert - you can clearly see "WTF?" expressions on Ike & Tina's faces as they came in the middle of some local village with people running around with a large Elephant bone totem or hear sorrow in Mavis Staples voice as she explains visit to old slave castle.
Concert itself was a huge celebration - Ghanaian audience might not have been familiar with performers but they quickly recognized The Staple Singers as "Old man and his family". The Voices of East Harlem probably reminded them of their own dancing and chanting. Ike Turner's blues was maybe alien music genre to them but they loved his guitar playing (he was brilliant, instantly recognizable guitarist) and if men gaped mouth open at Ikettes, women clearly loved regally authoritative Tina. Now,Tina was nothing less exciting than Wilson Pickett but his recordings were known in Ghana, so when he appeared all Hell broke loose and audience exploded - in all honesty, American musicians probably did their usual concert routine but audience reaction (and a fact that concert took place in Ghana) was tremendous and made a huge difference.
Audio comments are very interesting as we hear musicians having a different perspective on what they saw and how they felt. Carlos Santana's white musician (Michael Shrieve) remembers how Wilson Pickett didn't want a white visitor to his hotel room party and how Ike Turner had argument with him about it. Ike Turner himself remembers Pickett making a fuss of insisting on his own dressing room (which was not possible). Mavis Staples remembers recognizing African faces in features of folks back home and so on. It must have been curious experience for visitors to see and feel Africa but there was surely a cultural shock and a occasional food poisoning. Absolutely fascinating to watch, though from today's perspective of course its technologically imperfect and footage had to be re-edited since Roberta Flack insisted her involvement had to be erased - she was part of concert but now doesn't want to have anything with it, well OK Roberta, if you dislike idea of being immortalized in a historical movie, it's up to you.
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