Veal, Michael E. 1963–

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Veal, Michael E. 1963–


Born 1963.


Office— Department of Music, Yale University, P.O. Box 208310, New Haven, CT 06520-8310. E-mail— [email protected].


Yale University, New Haven, CT, associate professor of ethnomusicology. Composer and musician, playing as guest with musicians including Fela and Egypt 80.


Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon(nonfiction), Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2000.

(Composer)The Afro-Kirlian Eclipse(sound recording), 2005.

Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae(nonfiction), Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 2007.


Michael E. Veal is a musician, a professor of music, and the author of two books:Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon and Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Veal has played as a guest saxophonist with Fela and his band, Egypt 80. He has also written and performed his own music. In 2005, Veal released the album The Afro-Kirlian Eclipse, which featured him along with a fifteen-piece band called Aqua Life. Several of Veal's own compositions are included on the recording, along with his arrangements of works by jazz masters such as John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter.

In the biography,Fela, Veal recounts the life story of Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician known for his eccentric ways, his musical artistry, and his commitment to social causes. Fela became a hero of the people in Nigeria because he continually challenged the oppressive, unjust military governments that have controlled his home country throughout much of the twentieth century. In an era and a place in which African culture was denigrated as primitive and vastly inferior to Western culture, Fela upheld the beauty and dignity of traditional cultures. Fela did not go unpunished for his courageous actions: he was continually harassed by the authorities, his house was torched, he had to endure numerous court appearances and jail time, and he was brutally beaten by members of the Nigerian military.

Fela, whose main instrument was the saxophone, was able to study music in London where he was exposed to, and influenced by, the music of seminal jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker. After returning to Nigeria from London in 1963, he began experimenting by combining jazz influences with "highlife," a musical style that was then popular in West Africa. Later in the 1960s, he and his band traveled to the United States where they were inspired by the black revolutionary movement's determination to make the arts a vehicle for activism. At that time, Fela began pondering how he could impact Nigerians with his music. "Fela clearly drew upon highlife, jazz and rhythm and blues but he Africanised the foreign jazz and soul elements while deconstructing dance band highlife and grafting them all onto a traditional West African rhythmic template. The result was Afro beat: a style of composition that buttressed its busy, lengthy arrangements of interlocking polyrhythms and blazing horns with fervently nationalistic lyrics that railed against the rampant corruption in Nigeria's halls of power," stated a writer for FLY Global Music Culture.

Reviewing Fela for Now, Matt Galloway observed that the author "tends to react to Fela's explosive music on an analytical rather than emotional level. Reading Veal is worth the effort, though, because Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon makes you want to listen to the records themselves. You can't ask more from a book." Dan Bogey, reviewing for Library Journal, deemed this "an important work" on the man many people feel is the most influential figure in world music since Bob Marley. The book was further recommended by a Publishers Weekly writer as "exhaustive and objective."

In Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, Veal delineates the progression of dub music, from the reworking of existing reggae recordings to the complex, original recordings made in studios. Reviewing the work in Booklist, Mike Tribby found it to be "persuasive if weighty stuff that draws a line of musical development from the studios of Kingston to the bling-encrusted world of hip-hop." Soundscapes is "the best and only book on dub music," remarked Bill Walker in Library Journal. Walker also felt that Veal's book was at times somewhat wordy, but he added that the author has a particular skill for "explaining, analyzing, and describing sounds."



Booklist, June 1, 2000, Mike Tribby, review of Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon, p. 1831; March 15, 2007, Mike Tribby, review of Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, p. 13.

Library Journal, May 15, 2000, Dan Bogey, review of Fela, p. 97; March 15, 2007, Bill Walker, review of Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, p. 75.

Popular Music, October, 2003, Sazi Diamini, review of Fela, p. 393.

Publishers Weekly, May 1, 2000, review of Fela, p. 58.


Afro Pop, (November 28, 2007), review of recording The Afro-Kirlian Eclipse.

Book Forum, (September, 2007), Andy Battaglia, review of Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae.

Democracy Now, (November 28, 2007), biographical information about Michael Veal.

FLY Global Music Culture, (November 28, 2007), review of Fela.

Now, (November 28, 2007), Matt Galloway, review of Fela.

Temple University Web site, (November 28, 2007), biographical information about Michael E. Veal.

Yale University Web site, 28, 2007), biographical information about Michael Veal.