Socialist Worker

Soul Power

by Eamonn Kelly
Issue No. 2160

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba

In 1974 a roster of the top soul acts in the US travelled to Kinshasa, Zaire, (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to play a three-day concert timed to coincide with Muhammad Ali’s world championship challenge to George Foreman.

Soul Power couples the political militancy of the era with the fantastic energy and pride that ran through the music. The footage is from the outtakes of the documentary of the fight, When We Were Kings

James Brown and the JBs, probably at the height of their powers, deliver a scorching Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud). Exiled anti-apartheid activist singer Miriam Makeba performs in her native Xhosa a song “the colonialists in South Africa call The Click Song”.

Ali is a constant presence in the film. He is shown addressing the camera, the press corps, and anyone else who will listen about the injustice faced by black people at the hands of racist regimes.

Surprisingly, he makes little reference to Sese Seko Mobutu, the brutal Zairean dictator and CIA stooge who sponsored the fight and the concert.

Despite this, the film is a must for anyone who loves the music that made the era.

Soul Power
Director: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte
In cinemas now

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Tue 14 Jul 2009, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2160
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