Based on exclusive interviews, Breakout tells the often riveting personal stories of fourteen popular musicians--some well known, others not--from Zaire, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The first book on African pop music to look closely at the lives of the musicians themselves, Breakout deals with four African musical genres: soukous, highlife, afro-beat, and palm wine. Amid Africa's deepening economic and political crises of the last two decades, African musicians who developed these genres faced the need to cross cultural boundaries, or "break out," and achieve a hit in the international marketplace. Challenging conventional assumptions, Gary Stewart demonstrates for the first time the true dimensions of this struggle to create music that will qualify as both an authentic cultural expression and an export commodity. From accounts of the outrageous Fela, who snipes at African leaders and recounts his days with Isis in ancient Egypt, to S. E.
Rogie, who lurches from the pinnacle of stardom in West Africa to delivering pizzas in California, to Olatunji, who finds new life with the Grateful Dead, these are the stories of Africans straddling traditional life and an encroaching modernity--and also the stories of third world musicians surmounting political and economic chaos at home and carrying their music to a world dominated by Western cultural and economic power.