23 July 1942
Walthamstow, East London, UK
Rikki Stein (21 July 1942 in Walthamstow, East London) is a British music industry executive known for being Fela Kuti's manager from 1983 till the music icon's death in 1997. He is the CEO of Kalakuta Sunrise Limited Knitting Factory Records, Partisan Records.
Rikki was born in July 1942 in Walthamstow, East London, to a family of Russian and Polish descent. His father, Len, was a clothing retailer and his mum, Miriam, was a haberdasher. He grew up in Ilford with his family. At 15, he left school to pave a career path that very quickly led to the music scene. He set up a weekly jazz club at a local hall and hired such musicians as Johnny Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Roy East, Brian Brocklehurst, Bill le Sage and others. He then moved on to work for the pirate radio station, Radio Caroline under the banner of Spectre Promotions and under this umbrella, mounted the first travelling discothèque, visiting ballrooms across the UK and organising mime and dance competitions.
For more than forty years, Rikki Stein has been involved in many aspects of the entertainment industry in the UK and Nigeria. He has been employed by record companies as a producer in both France and the United States. He has arranged and presented concerts and tours for countless distinguished artists, performing at prestigious venues throughout the world.
Rikki Stein has been associated with a significant number of projects relating to the presentation of music, dance and drama, in the context of major open-air events and international festivals. He has been involved with the personal and business management of a number of distinguished performing artists, initiating and organising tours of concert halls and theatres throughout the world.
In 1980, he conceived, organised and produced a tour for the Master Musicians of Jajouka, returning to the village and obtaining passports for everyone, he bought a bus (that was always breaking down) and, over a period of three months, took 35 musicians across Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, carrying out 65 performances at festivals, concert halls and theatres. The tour was supported by the International Music Council (UNESCO), The Visiting Arts Unit of Great Britain, The Threshold Foundation and the Moroccan Government and turned out to be very successful with great critical and public acclaim.
In 1981 and 1982, Rikki moved to Bristol where he was administrator for Ekome, an Afro-Caribbean Dance Company. In July 1982, he was a Co-ordinator for the presentation of concerts, transportation and audio-visual equipment for The International Society for Music Education Bi-Annual Conference in Bristol. ISME, which is a UNESCO affiliated organisation presented 3,000 performers from all over the world (symphony orchestras, choirs, dance companies, etc.) in some 65 concerts during a ten-day period in various venues and more than 100 conference meetings for the 2,000 international delegates attending the conference.
In 1984, he co-founded Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble. The group developed into the flagship company for African People’s Dance in the UK with major (£1 miilion per year) support from the Arts Council of Great Britain. He instigated a community based education project involving an extensive programme of tuition in schools throughout the country and assisted with the formulation of an artistic policy which led the company to perform at major venues and festivals throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.
In 1983, Rikki became Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s personal manager. They embarked on tours throughout the world. He negotiated contracts with record companies and handled general business administration, marketing and promotion for Fela, who was recognised as one of the most iconic African artists. That relationship continued until Fela's passing in 1997. Rikki still defends Fela's legacy up to the present day
From 1984 to 1988, Rikki was an agent for several African performing artists. This involved the organisation of international tours for artists from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi, Guinea, Nigeria, Mali, Zaire, Jamaica, etc., as well as for African artists living in Great Britain and the United States. He also took on the management of Les Ballets Africains, National Dance Company of the Republic of Guinea, signing contracts with the Guinean government and touring the 42 members of the troupe throughout the world for more than 12 years.
From 1981 to 1990, he was a member of the co-ordinating Executive team of the Glastonbury Festival. It was during his involvement at this festival that Rikki gained practical first-hand experience of virtually every area of festival management, including programming, stage construction, stage management, lighting and sound systems, communications, welfare, security, ticket control systems, publicity, sanitation and water distribution systems, site planning, etc. He also established an expanding network of contacts with Europe’s most competent and respected festival technicians.
In 1990, Rikki was company secretary and Director of MWF Ltd, a Company formed in 1990 to organise the catalogue of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. From 1990 to the present day MWF Ltd has been responsible for digitally remastering Fela’s entire back catalogue of more than 50 albums and preparing the catalogue for commercial release throughout the world.
In 1991, he co-founded DounDoumba Records, a record label devoted to the production of mainly traditional African music. In 1997, following Fela’s demise, he was appointed company secretary and administrator at Kalakuta Limited, a company set up to protect Fela’s interests. A year later, a licence agreement was successfully negotiated with Polygram (now Universal), on behalf of the Fela Anikulapo Kuti Estate for the worldwide exploitation of this catalogue and Stein oversaw the worldwide promotion.
of some 27 CDs each containing two albums, DVDs, vinyl, etc. MWF Ltd also launched the international career of Femi Anikulapo Kuti, son of Fela, who was signed to Barclay Universal in 1998, since when he has toured throughout the world to universal critical and public acclaim. In 2004 MWF Ltd formed a publishing division.
In 2000, he became the managing director of Brilliant Collision, formed to manage the careers of artists of mainly African, Arabic and South American origin, with the exception of Andy Summers, ex guitarist for The Police, who Rikki toured successfully for two years as a jazz trio, also featuring Trilok Gurtu and Larry Coryell. Some of the company’s first signings included Les Nubians and Keziah Jones, both signed to Virgin France. Brilliant Collision acted as Executive Producer for two tracks on EMI's prestigious Olympic Games 'Unity' album released worldwide in August 2004, one for Rachid Taha wirh Brian Eno and Skin, the other a collaboration between Keziah Jones and Macy Gray. The album also featured tracks by Avril Lavigne, Destiny's Child, Timbaland, Lenny Kravitz, Sting, and many others, as well as Trevor Horn's production of the official Olympic Theme.
In 2006, Rikki became the company secretary and Director of LabelMaison Limited, a company formed in 2006 as a music publisher and to take on the international touring of first category ensembles in the world's most prestigious venues and festivals.
He was the Consultant to Fela! The hit Broadway Musical (see felaonbroadway.com) having been involved in the development of this project from 2005 to the present day, including acting as Executive Producer of the 2011 presentation in Lagos, Nigeria.
In 2012, he became the CEO of Kalakuta Sunrise Limited and Kalakuta Sunrise publishing, set up in 2012 to launch Knitting Factory Records in the UK and across Europe, including the re-packaging and re-release of the entire 46-album catalogue of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the development and promotion of other artists.
In 2014-18, Rikki was appointed the international Adviser to the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) which takes place in Lagos, Nigeria. Taking place under the aegis of The African Union and Lagos State Government, 2017 was its 4th year. That relationship continues up until the present day.
He is an Associate Producer of the definitive documentary, ‘Finding Fela", depicting the life and times of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, directed by Oscar winning filmmaker, Alex Gibney.
In late 2016 Rikki became Head of A&R for Okaymusic, a digital distribution service offering up and coming artists access to every major digital platform worldwide (see:okaymusic.com) Okaymusic is an offshoot of OkayAfrica (se: okayafrica.com)
Rikki and Fela
Rikki encountered Fela’s music in the late 1970s while in a Mercedes van on the M4 motorway, lying in a heap of African dancers on their way back from a show.. Someone played a cassette, "Sorrow, Tears and Blood" and the song resonated with him. A year after that encounter, he heard that Fela was in London and through a mutual friend arranged to meet him. At that time, he was organising a Rainforest Festival and he gave Fela a proposal, asking him to be one of hise board of advisors and, of course, to play at the festival. It was during this meeting that a bond of friendship was ignited. Fela’s manager at that time was Francis Kertekian. He and Fela involved Rikki in various projects and that was how his relationship with both Fela and Francis grew until he was finally invited to become Fela’s co-manager with Francis.That friendship and working relationship with Francis sad passing in 2017. Rikki was often with Fela during those years, not just as a personal manager but as a friend. In 1997 he joined the one million people to march, on the day of Fela’s funeral. He describes himself "the self appointed guardian of Fela’s legacy".
Stein is married with three kids.