*The Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman boxing match in Zaire, a.k.a. the “Rumble In The Jungle,” was originally scheduled to go down on Sept. 24, with an all-star concert featuring top local acts and soul superstars from the States set for two days before. But Foreman suffered a cut above his eye while sparring and the fight had to be pushed back six weeks.
The concert, however – featuring James Brown, B.B. King, Sister Sledge, The Spinners, Bill Withers, and a host of local African talent – went on as scheduled, kicking off 46 years ago today.
The three-day music festival, known as Zaire 74, took place from Sept. 22 to 24, 1974 at the 20th of May Stadium in Kinshasa. It was organized by the fight’s promoter, Don King, and conceived by legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela along with record producer Stewart Levine. The idea was to use the powerhouse lineup to promote the heavyweight championship bout, as well as cultural unity between Africans and African Americans.
A documentary about the concert, the Jeffrey Levy-Hinte-directed “Soul Power,” was released in 2009 and contains the following performance footage, seen below:
BB King, The Thrill Is Gone – Zaire 74
Sister Sledge, On and On – Zaire 1974
James Brown, Soul Power – Zaire 1974
Bill Withers, Hope She’ll Be Happier – Zaire 1974
The Spinners, One of a Kind (Love Affair) – Zaire 1974
Among the 31 acts who performed over the three-days were 17 prominent African stars, including Miriam Makeba, TPOK Jazz and Tabu Ley Rochereau. Other performers included Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars. [The entire film can be seen at the top of the page.]
When the fight finally took place on October 30, Ali knocked out Foreman in the eighth round.