Songs by Fela Kuti are perfectly suited to listening to while exercising. One queues up Sorrow, Tears and Blood, and maybe Zombie and then International Thief Thief1, and suddenly an hour has passed. Driving, deep rhythms of bass and drums, interwoven with horns, guitar, electric piano, chanting choruses, and so on, and of course, searing politically edged lyrics by Fela Kuti. His lyrical inventions don’t always translate into English, but if you concentrate, you’ll get the gist. Sorrow, Tears and Blood is the Nigerian version of KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police”, or N.W.A.’s “Fuck The Police”, Junior Murvin’s, “Police and Thieves”, or even the Dead Kennedy’s “Police Truck”.2
or Furry Lewis’, “Judge Harsh Blues”, The Clash’s song, “Guns of Brixton”, Prince Buster’s “Judge Dread”, you could go on and on. Suffice to say, the police have been frequently agents of oppression as long as they’ve had the power to [↩]
Since I own these albums already on CD, this box set, while enticing, seems too expensive for me: $30 per LP. If you are new to the delicious and infectious polyrhythms of Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, et al, these are excellent albums to start with.
Via Pitchfork’s Evan Minsker
Knitting Factory have released two vinyl box sets reissuing Fela Kuti’s albums—the first was curated by ?uestlove, the second by Ginger Baker. On September 29, they’ll release a third, this one put together by Brian Eno. For Eno’s installment, he picked the albums London Scene (1971), Shakara (1972), Gentleman (1973), Afrodisiac (1973), Zombie (1976), Upside Down (1976), and I.T.T. (1980). It comes with a 12-page booklet with a foreword by Eno, song lyrics, and in-depth commentaries by Afrobeat historian Chris May.
Also here’s Brian Eno discussing how he discovered Fela1 in a record store in London
This is the first in a series of videos presenting the salutations of celebrities on the occasion of what would have been Fela’s 75th birthday. Also on this day, 15th October, Knitting Factory Records are releasing Red Hot + Fela, a compilation album featuring interpretations of Fela songs by a raft of top drawer artists. All profits from this album go towards combatting AIDS.
Brian Eno, producer, thinker, conceptual artist and lifelong Fela fan has contributed this salutory message, talking about how encountering Fela’s music changed his life.
Certainly looking forward to seeing this, whenever it gets released. Any sour mood can be alleviated by playing Fela Kuti1 at high volume and dancing around, shaking one’s hips with abandon.
Focus Features has set Steve McQueen to direct “Fela,” a feature film based on the life of African musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti — the subject of the recently opened Broadway musical “Fela!”
McQueen, the British artist who made his feature directing debut last year on the Irish hunger strike drama “Hunger” will write the script with Biyi Bandele, based on the Michael Veal book “Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon.” Cine Mosaic’s Lydia Pilcher and Leigh Blake are producing. The musical has spurred a resurgence of interest in Fela, who died in 1997, and his Afrobeat musical style, which is a fusion of American jazz, funk and West African drums.
The musical is not connected to the film project: Focus is basing its pic on a rights package consisting of screen rights to Fela’s music and his life story, plus Veal’s book.
Fela lived large — with some 27 wives — and paid a high price for speaking out against oppression in Nigeria. In one attack on his home, Fela’s 78-year-old mother was killed after being thrown from a second-story window. Fela responded by placing her coffin on the steps of the Nigerian leader’s residence.
“Fela might be the most globally influential pop artist outside the Beatles in the last 50 years,” said Focus topper James Schamus.