Zaire, Africa, 1974. An epic clash took place between reigning heavyweight champion George Foreman and living legend, Muhammad Ali. Ali had been stripped of his title and banned from boxing in 1967 when he’d been drafted by the army after the outbreak of Viet Nam, refused to go on religious grounds, and sensibly added “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” But the supreme court had reversed the ’67 conviction and all converged on Africa for Ali’s shot at redemption, the big struggle, the “Rumble in the Jungle” as it became known.
(Manu Dibango in “Soul Power,” courtesy of Antidote Films ©, Property of Sony Pictures Classics, All Rights Reserved.)
At the same time, Hugh Masekela and Stewart Levine convinced Don King to combine the massive event with a 3 night-long concert blow out, and the legendary music festival Zaire ’74 was born. Director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, was an editor on the Oscar winning film, “When We Were Kings” that documents the Rumble, but left the music largely in the background. Apparently a huge cache of incredible footage was left untouched and remained hidden away for the past 34 years. “Soul Power” is the result of him breaking back into the vault and retelling this story with Zaire ’74 at the center and “hundreds of camera rolls and sound recordings” of some of the toughest African bands and most notorious American R&B players together in one crazy place.
The cast of characters includes James Brown, Muhammad Ali, Maceo Parker, Don King, Stewart Levine, and “black power” coiner Stokely Carmichael.
“Soul Power” premieres July 10th and features performances by, James Brown & the J.B.’s, The Spinners, B.B. King, Bill Withers, Miriam Makeba, Big Black, Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars among others.