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FELA KUTI

Fela Kuti

Afrodisiac - 50th Anniversary Edition

    Fela Kuti (1938-1997) was a Nigerian musician, producer, arranger, political radical, outlaw and the originator of Afrobeat. A titanic musical and sociopolitical voice, Fela’s legacy spans decades and genres, touching on jazz, pop, funk, hip-hop, rock and beyond.

    Afrodisiac is the fifth in the series of celebratory Fela 50th Anniversary reissues. Like its predecessors in the series, this double LP edition is on color vinyl; LP 1 is green marble and LP 2 is on red marble. The album will be wrapped in a gold foil OBI strip with a brief essay on the album and Fela's global impact on music. The songs on Afrodisiac were tracks that Fela and the Nigeria 70 (Later Africa 70) re-recorded at Abbey Road Studios in 1972 after they had become hits in Nigeria. The best known song on the album, 'Jeun Ko Ku’, is listed by its Pidgin title ‘Chop and Quench’ on this album. It’s a satire about gluttony and Fela's first major hit across West Africa. ‘Chop and Quench’ means ""eat and die"" in Standard English.

    Afrodisiac was first reissued on vinyl in 2014 as part of the Fela Box Set #3 curated by Brian Eno. Eno played Afrodisiac for David Byrne and it was a huge influence on Talking Heads when they recorded Remain In Light -- there is a bonus track called ‘Fela's Riff’ that nods heavily to the influence of hearing Afrodisiac and Fela's music for the first time.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A:
    1. Alu Jon Jonki Jon

    SIDE B:
    1. Chop And Quench

    SIDE C:
    1. Eko Ile


    SIDE D:
    1. Je'nwi Temi (Don't Gag Me)

    Fela Kuti

    Roforofo Fight - 50th Anniversary Edition

      By 1972, when Music of Fela: Roforofo Fight was originally released (on two vinyl albums, Music of Fela Volume One and Volume Two), Fela was becoming one of the most avidly followed musicians in West Africa. His audience came from among the region's urban poor, the "sufferheads" living in the shanty towns around the major cities, along with growing numbers of students and political dissenters. Fela championed, and sang about the problems of, oppressed and exploited people and denounced the ruling elites lording it over them, with their seemingly endemic corruption and their ready use of violence to crush dissent. Because he generally sang in Broken English rather than Yoruba, and adopted an increasingly pan-Africanist outlook, his message resonated throughout Anglophone Africa.

      The 50th-anniversary reissue of Roforofo Fight is pressed on double yellow & green vinyl. Side D features singles "Shenshema" and "Ariya" on vinyl for the first time. The two tracks were originally released as a 7" single in 1972 and later featured in the CD reissue of "Roforofo Fight / The Fela Singles".

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A:
      1. Roforofo Fight

      SIDE B:
      1. Go Slow

      SIDE C:
      1. Question Jam Answer
      2. Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am

      SIDE D:
      1. Shenshema
      2. Ariya

      Gummy Soul's Amerigo Gazway mixes tracks from Afro-beat legend Fela Kuti with acapellas from hip hop pioneers De La Soul to killer effect. A 33 minute long journey into the world of Afro-beat rhythms, funky horn riffs, and classic hip-hop gems. Eight tracks in total, including mash-ups of "Stakes Is High", "Trouble In The Water", "Itsoweezee" and Gorillaz track "Feel Good Inc".

      Gazway says; 'I came up with the concept for this project in fall of 2010. I wanted to follow through with it not only because it was a great mash-up title and good idea, but because of the powerful impact both these artists have had on me and my music. Afro-beat, jazz, funk, and hip-hop are already so interconnected, and I always thought it would be exciting to work on a project that combined all of these elements together.'


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Matt says: Don't sleep on this much needed repress of this Amerigo Gazaway classic. Exactly the same formula as his other imperative works only with Fela Kuti & De La Soul as the source material! There's even a Gorillaz track mashed up for good measure!

      TRACK LISTING

      Stakes Is High (5:44)
      Trouble In The Water (4:43)
      Oooh (feat Redman) (4:02)
      Rock Co. Kane Flow (feat Mf Doom) (2:23)
      Itsoweezee (3:54)
      Interlude (0:24)
      Much More (3:46)
      Breakadawn (3:36)
      Feel Good Inc. (feat Gorillaz) (4:11)
      Still Ego Trippin' (bonus Track) (5:10)

      Fela Kuti

      Live! With Ginger Baker

        The 50th-anniversary reissue of Live! is pressed on double red vinyl and features an etching of the album artwork on Side D. Side C features Ginger Baker and Tony Allen’s blinding, extended, dual-drums solos from 1978’s Berlin Jazz Festival, re-mastered at Abbey Road Studios in 2021. This anniversary reissue marks the first vinyl pressing of these performances. Complete with a collector's gold OBI strip.

        TRACK LISTING

        SIDE A:

        1) Let's Start
        2) Black Man's Cry


        SIDE B

        1) Ye Ye De Smell
        2) Egbe Mi O (Carry Me I Want To Die)


        SIDE C

        1) Ginger Baker And Tony Allen Drum Solo, Part I (Live At Berlin Jazz Festival, 1978)
        2) Ginger Baker And Tony Allen Drum Solo, Part II (Live At Berlin Jazz Festival, 1978)


        SIDE D:

        1) Bespoke Etching Design

        Fela Kuti

        Coffin For Head Of State

          The album is among Fela’s most courageous responses to the Nigerian army’s destruction of Kalakuta on 18 February 1977. During the attack, Fela’s mother, aged 78, a veteran of Nigeria’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule and an early campaigner for Nigerian women’s rights, was thrown out of an upstairs window, fracturing a leg. Fela believed that the assault led to his mother’s death 14 months later

          TRACK LISTING

          Coffin For Head Of State (Part 1)
          Coffin For Head Of State (Part 2)

          "Army Arrangement" comes from 1985 and is co-produced by Bill Laswell (Material) with the likes of Bernie Worrell (P-Funk) and Sly Dunbar guesting, giving the tracks an extra electronic edge. The LP is a critique of Nigeria's attempt at democracy. Mired as the army-led government was in political corruption, it came as no surprise that this LP cemented Fela's reputation as an anti-government subversive and continued the spiral of arrests, beatings and imprisonments that marred his life.

          TRACK LISTING

          Army Arrangement (Part 1)
          Army Arrangement (Part 2)

          Fela Kuti

          Johnny Just Drop (J.J.D.)

            Originally released in 1977, ‘Johnny Just Drop (J.J.D.)’ features Fela lampooning Nigeria’s ‘beentos’, people who had been to Europe or America to work or study and then returned (dropped) home with European social pretensions and an inferiority complex about African culture. The reissue features original album artwork designed by Lemi Ghariokwu, who created the cover art for around half of Fela’s albums.

            TRACK LISTING

            Johnny Just Drop (J.J.D.) (Part 1)
            Johnny Just Drop (J.J.D.) (Part 2)

            Fela Kuti

            No Agreement

              ‘No Agreement’ is sometimes overlooked among Fela’s 1977 releases, eclipsed by albums such as ‘Johnny Just Drop (J.J.D.)’ and ‘Sorrow Tears and Blood’, yet it is among his best albums of the period. It includes an outstanding Afrika 70 instrumental, ‘Dog Eat Dog’. The track includes a solo by the American trumpeter Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, who was then staying with Fela in Lagos.

              TRACK LISTING

              No Agreement
              Dog Eat Dog (Instrumental)

              Fela Kuti

              V.I.P. (Vagabonds In Power)

                ‘V.I.P.’ (Vagabonds In Power) was recorded live at the Berlin Jazz Festival in Autumn 1978 and released the following year. It is a ferocious and lyrically exalted attack on the abuse of state power. The festival straddled the cusp of the break-up of Afrika 70 and the formation of Egypt 80 in Spring 1979 and ‘V.I.P.’ was the last album Fela made with the drummer Tony Allen, who had been with him since 1964 and acted as Afrika 70’s bandleader.

                TRACK LISTING

                V.I.P. (Part 1)
                V.I.P. (Part 2)

                Fela Kuti

                Yellow Fever

                  ‘Yellow Fever’ was originally released in 1976, during Fela’s extraordinarily prolific 1975-77 purple period, when he released 24 albums in Nigeria alone. The title track is one of Fela’s defining masterpieces. Sung in Broken English, the language he adopted in order to make his words understood beyond Yoruba speakers, the lyrics rail against the fashion for skin-whitening creams.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  Yellow Fever
                  Na Poi ‘75

                  Fela Kuti And Roy Ayers

                  Music Of Many Colours

                    THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2019 EXCLUSIVE AND WILL BE AVAILABLE INSTORE ON SATURDAY APRIL 13th ON A FIRST COME FIRST SERVED BASIS, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON. IF THERE ARE ANY REMAINING COPIES THEY WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE AT 12.01AM SATURDAY APRIL 20th.

                    Knitting Factory Records is proud to reissue Music of Many Colours on limited edition rainbow starburst vinyl, exclusive to Record Store Day. This is the first pressing of the album since the late 80’s. Music of Many Colours is a joint album between Roy Ayers and Fela Kuti, recorded after a three week tour of Nigeria’s major cities in 1979, during which Roy Ayers performed as the opening act for Fela’s band. The two artists decided to record the album as a round-up to the tour. Roy Ayers describes the experience saying, “I met Fela Kuti in Nigeria in 1979, and we fell into a great relationship, good personal and music vibes, and we recorded that album together. Fela also came to USA in the eighties and we performed at NYC's Madison Square Garden. Amazingly energetic, Fela Kuti had a very original concept that was called Afro Beat – a genre with a very unique identity and exceptional music. One of Fela Kuti's most impressive qualities was that he was undeniably a brilliant show man, as a musician and as a huge dancer as well. His African concept was truly original… The tour was about two black men together coming together, one from Africa and other from USA, a very exciting collaboration." Knitting Factory Records is proud to reissue Music of Many Colours on limited edition rainbow starburst vinyl, exclusive to Record Store Day. This is the first pressing of the album since the late 80’s. Music of Many Colours is a joint album between Roy Ayers and Fela Kuti, recorded after a three week tour of Nigeria’s major cities in 1979, during which Roy Ayers performed as the opening act for Fela’s band. The two artists decided to record the album as a round-up to the tour. Roy Ayers describes the experience saying, “I met Fela Kuti in Nigeria in 1979, and we fell into a great relationship, good personal and music vibes, and we recorded that album together. Fela also came to USA in the eighties and we performed at NYC's Madison Square Garden. Amazingly energetic, Fela Kuti had a very original concept that was called Afro Beat – a genre with a very unique identity and exceptional music. One of Fela Kuti's most impressive qualities was that he was undeniably a brilliant show man, as a musician and as a huge dancer as well. His African concept was truly original… The tour was about two black men together coming together, one from Africa and other from USA, a very exciting collaboration." Knitting Factory Records is proud to reissue Music of Many Colours on limited edition rainbow starburst vinyl, exclusive to Record Store Day. This is the first pressing of the album since the late 80’s. Music of Many Colours is a joint album between Roy Ayers and Fela Kuti, recorded after a three week tour of Nigeria’s major cities in 1979, during which Roy Ayers performed as the opening act for Fela’s band. The two artists decided to record the album as a round-up to the tour. Roy Ayers describes the experience saying, “I met Fela Kuti in Nigeria in 1979, and we fell into a great relationship, good personal and music vibes, and we recorded that album together. Fela also came to USA in the eighties and we performed at NYC's Madison Square Garden. Amazingly energetic, Fela Kuti had a very original concept that was called Afro Beat – a genre with a very unique identity and exceptional music. One of Fela Kuti's most impressive qualities was that he was undeniably a brilliant show man, as a musician and as a huge dancer as well. His African concept was truly original… The tour was about two black men together coming together, one from Africa and other from USA, a very exciting collaboration."

                    The collection of songs on ‘Afrodisiac’ were songs Fela and the Nigeria 70 (Later Africa 70) re-recorded at Abbey Road in London in 1971. Originally recorded and released in Nigeria on 45rpm, they were Fela’s first successive hits in the Nigerian music charts. The best known song on 1973’s ‘Afrodisiac’ is ‘Jeun Ko Ku’, a satire about gluttony and Fela’s first major hit in West Africa. In Broken English the title means ‘chop and quench’, which, in turn, means ‘eat and die’ in Standard English.

                    TRACK LISTING

                    A. Afrodisiac
                    B. Jeun Ko Ku

                    Fela Kuti

                    Gentleman

                      The title track, ‘Gentleman’, has often been hailed as Fela’s masterpiece. The politically scathing song opposes Westernization and those who imitate Western ways. Fela had many Ghanaian friends (and Ghanaian wives and Ghanaian girlfriends) and ‘Fefe Naa Efe’ is sung as a tribute to Ghana. ‘Igbe’ again shows Fela breaking cultural taboos by singing literally and figuratively about ‘sh*t’. He sings the word in a several Nigerian languages so there is no misunderstanding. 

                      TRACK LISTING

                      A. Gentleman
                      B. Igbe

                      Fela Kuti

                      Shakara

                        ‘Shakara’ is a two-track release of 13-minute songs that showcase Fela’s satirical side. ‘Lady’, perhaps one of Fela’s most popular tracks, criticizes Westernized African women who he felt had been corrupted by their embrace of the new feminist movement of the time. ‘Shakara’ is a mainly instrumental track with a brief lyric sung in Yoruba, warning against boasters and braggarts. Uptempo, with a suitably turbulent horn arrangement, it includes strong solos from Fela on keyboards and the fearsome Igo Chico on tenor saxophone.


                        TRACK LISTING

                        A1. Lady
                        B1. Shakara

                        Fela Kuti

                        Zombie

                          On the title track Fela and the backup singers ridicule the mindset of men in uniform over an urgent, quick-march accompaniment from Afrika 70. The album was a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. ‘Zombie’ was a smash hit with the people and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic (a commune that Fela had established in Nigeria). Fela was badly beaten, sustaining a fractured skull and several broken bones. His mother, then aged 77, was thrown out of a window, fracturing a leg and suffering deep trauma. The army then set fire to the compound. The blaze gutted the premises, destroying six Afrika 70 vehicles, all Fela’s master tapes and band equipment and a four-track recording studio. 

                          Fela Kuti

                          Beasts Of No Nation

                            Considering that Fela's performances (even on record) always had an improvisatory aspect to them, the Egypt 80 proves to be a highly flexible and responsive group. In comparison to the hard-driving Africa 70, The Egypt 80 was more attuned to the texture and subtleties that Fela was developing in his late-period work. Although the Africa 70 excelled in executing highly complex beats derived from local traditions, "Beasts of No Nation" shows that Fela was experimenting beyond the boundaries his previous work. Repeated listening reveals some of his most complex arrangements and memorable melodic material, seamlessly bound into an improvisatory tapestry.

                            TRACK LISTING

                            Beasts Of No Nation (Instrumental)
                            Beasts Of No Nation (Vocal)

                            Fela Kuti

                            Coffin For The Head Of State / Unknown Soldier

                              These masterpieces were pivotal accomplishments for Kuti, as they solidified his rise from mere social commentator to fiercely determined cultural leader. Recorded after the brutal raid of his Kalaluta compound and the consequent death of his mother, they comprise two of the most personal statements Kuti ever made. "Coffin for Head of State" denounces the corrosive effect of Christian and Muslim influence on African life and takes to task the leaders that perpetuate the "Bad bad bad things/Through Jesus Christ our Lord." It takes its name from a protest in which Kuti and a group of supporters laid a coffin on the steps of Christian leader Olusegun Obasanjo's Dodan Barracks, the headquarters of the military government. An epic 31-minute tribute to his fallen mother, "Unknown Soldier" is one of the most ambitious recordings of Kuti's career which describes in frightening detail the events that transpired on the eve of the Kalakuta raid, including the rape of several women, beatings, mutilation, and the throwing of his mother ("the Mother of Nigeria") out of a window. The official police report after the raid blamed the attack on "unknown soldiers," and in response to this fantastic cover-up, Kuti gives a tortured, powerful performance of some of his most vivid and incendiary music

                              Fela Kuti

                              Opposite People / Sorrow Tears And Blood

                                The two albums included on "Opposite People" / "Sorrow Tears And Blood" book-ended the Nigerian army's deadly raid of the Kalakuta Republic, Fela Kuti's self-appointed independent state domicile, and Kuti's hostile feelings toward upper-class Nigeria are prominent on both sessions. "Opposite People", recorded between 1976 and 1977, is brave and brassy, beaming with an almost joyful defiance on the title track. This album isn't particularly outspoken, focusing on the celebration of freethinking. "Sorrow Tears And Blood", the first recording released after the Kalakuta's capture, is fiercer; the band's sound almost seeming to drip blood. Slower and more persistent, the ominous grooves here no longer bother with metaphor, crying out bluntly, 'some people lost some bread, someone just died...them leave sorrow, tears, and blood'. "Sorrow Tears and Blood" boils over with Fela's singing and the frantic call-response of horns and chorus; the scattering sounds of people fleeing a police-and-army attack. And "Colonial Mentality" calls for a united Africa to stand up against its widespread leftovers of imperialism. The entire collection is chock-full of Kuti's distinctive polyrhythmic orchestra-funk in top form.

                                Fela Kuti

                                Stalemate / Fear Not For Man

                                  Although the original liner notes report that Stalemate was "recorded during the Kalakuta crisis," the album is surprisingly non-confrontational. Modern day notes explain that the singer was distracted by a number of outside issues, such as his sudden homelessness and legal battles with Decca West Africa, but the album's decidedly lighthearted tone is perhaps an attempt to demonstrate to his oppressors that Kuti had escaped the Kalakuta conflict with his health and determination intact. "Stalemate" is a slice-of-life song depicting everyday situations where two groups of people are at odds with each other; "Don't Worry About My Mouth O (African Message)" finds Kuti as a schoolmaster teaching his students to reject Western toothbrushes and toilet paper in favor of traditional African chewing sticks and water. Fear Not for Man is less about message and more about grooves, with the title track preaching briefly about the importance of being courageous before embarking on an extended instrumental jam. One of the more peculiar tracks in Kuti's catalog, "Palm Wine Sound" is a Caribbean-styled instrumental that finishes the album in the high-life spirit of carefree fun and dancing.

                                  Fela Kuti

                                  Upside Down / Fela And Roy Ayers

                                    These albums provide answers to the question, "What would Fela Kuti's band sound like with someone else singing?" The title track of 1976's Up Side Down was written for the voice of Sandra Isodore, the woman who had introduced Fela to the Black Panthers seven years before. It's one of his greatest songs, a slinky 15-minute funk jam with an irresistible riff and a sly lyric about Pan-African disorganization. Fela coupled it with a remake of his earlier "Go Slow," a low-grooving complaint about traffic jams in Lagos. Music of Many Colours is a 1980 collaboration between Fela and American vibraphonist Roy Ayers, who wrote and sings the jazzy "2000 Blacks Got to Be Free," a vision of a black-unity future that's the closest Africa 70 ever came to making a disco record. Its companion piece, Fela's "Africa Centre of the World," is more straightforward midtempo Afro-beat, with multiple percussionists pattering against Ayers's chiming, improvisational vibes.

                                    Fela Kuti

                                    VIP / Authority Stealing

                                      This CD really consists of two lengthy songs. The first half of the CD consists of a live performance from Berlin in 1979, 'VIP' (Vagabonds in Power). This concert was important in its own right, as Fela was finally able to perform after being banned (officially or unofficially) from performing in a number of African nations due to his inflammatory lyrics. 'Authority Stealing' was recorded a couple of years prior. This album was actually inflammatory enough to initiate another round of beatings to Fela from the hands of government thugs, this time nearly killing him.

                                      Fela Kuti

                                      Shuffering And Shmiling / No Agreement

                                        "Shuffering and Shmiling" is an attack on various non-native religions that Fela saw as encroaching upon the people of Nigeria, causing factions to emerge and rendering the people unable to unify as they needed to. The album was originally released in 1977. No Agreement, another album from 1977, essentially makes the statement (from Fela), that he won't speak against his common man in such a way as to let the government hurt them. "No Agreement" also boasts some nice trumpet work from Art Ensemble of Chicago member Lester Bowie. Finally, "Dog Eat Dog" is the B-side from the original LP of No Agreement, and is a nice work of Afrobeat goodness. Any Fela album has the potential to be a remarkable piece of art in many ways. Getting two albums for the price of one makes it even better.

                                        Fela Kuti

                                        Expensive Shit / He Miss Road

                                          Knitting Factory continues its excellent Fela Kuti reissue series with the release of this disc containing two of Kuti's finest from the 1970s. For He Miss Road and Expensive Shit, Fela still carried his original last name - Ransome-Kuti (which changed to his more radical moniker Anikulapo-Kuti later), but he had grown since his early 1970s albums in two important ways. First, Fela had been radicalized beyond his introduction to US-style black power and had been framed by Nigerian authorities, who placed marijuana in his possession. He promptly ate the dope, after which authorities arrested him and waited for him to defecate so they could test the dung for drugs. Not a sexy scheme, and not even a workable scheme, but it did give Fela fodder - specifically the tune (and album title) "Expensive Shit." His second advance came in the form of using the studio as a virtual instrument, one that makes He Miss Road a trippy, stuttery, reverb-laden intersection of lean Afro-beat and 70s astro-funk. Ginger Baker was at the controls for Road, and Fela shone through the weird studio ambience. Africa 70 was a band given to leaning back into the percussion weave the drummers - led by Tony Allen - laid down. Their inherently languid pacing was enhanced by Baker's studio play, and the results are outstanding.

                                          TRACK LISTING

                                          1. Expensive Shit
                                          2. Water No Get Enemy
                                          3. He Miss Road
                                          4. Monday Morning In Lagos
                                          5. It's No Possible

                                          It's hard to go wrong with Fela Kuti's work from the 1970s, and "LIVE!", which features the Afro-beat innovator backed by his powerhouse band Africa '70 and ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker, is no exception. Like all of Fela's recordings from the era, "LIVE!" consists of just a few tracks, each of which approximates or exceeds the ten minute mark.

                                          Yet the arrangements are so dynamic on these tracks, the criss-crossing polyrhythms so absorbing, and Fela's incantatory vocals so entrancing that the long running times never seem a factor. Every cut crackles from beginning to end with its mixture of funk, jazz, and traditional Nigerian music, underscoring once again Fela's revolutionary, indelible contribution to world music. Fans of Ginger Baker will want to take note that the drummer is not showcased except on a bonus track, which pairs the drummer with Fela percussionist Tony Allen for a smokin' sixteen-plus minute drum solo.

                                          Fela Kuti

                                          Roforofo Fight / The Fela Singles

                                          This is essentially a CD reissue of Fela Kuti's 1972 album "Roforofo Fight", with the addition of two previously unreleased tracks from the same era. It's true that Kuti's early-70s records tend to blur together with their similar groupings of four lengthy Afro-funk jazz cuts. Each of the four songs on "Roforofo Fight" clocks in at 12 to 17 minutes, and there's a slight slide toward more 70s-sounding rhythms in the happy-feet beats of the title track, and the varied, yet rock-solid drums in "Go Slow". There's just a hint of reggae in "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am", in the pace, vocal delivery, ethereal keyboards, and lilting yet dramatic minor melodic lines. The James Brown influence is strongly heard in the lean, nervous guitar strums of "Question Jam Answer". The two bonus tracks - "Shenshema" (from 1972) and "Ariya" (from 1973) - comprised the segment of the CD titled "The Fela Singles" a curious phrase given that they were previously unreleased. "Shenshema" is a nine-minute cut that is heavy on go-go-like percussion and cool, responsive chants from the band. The 10-minute "Ariya" is a real discovery, its urgent spy theme-like melody and Kuti's haunting, driven vocals making it a highlight even relative to the generally high quality of his recordings during this period.


                                          Fela Kuti

                                          Alagbon Close / Why Black Man Dey Suffer

                                            Though preceded by the more-than-promising Gentleman and Afrodisiac in 1973, 'Alagbon Close', with the benefit of hindsight, marks a quantum leap for Kuti, Allen and Afro-beat. Most of the elements which make the disc so compelling can be heard on earlier albums, but on 'Alagbon Close' Kuti and Tony Allen pull them all together to devastating effect, in the process creating the definitive Afrobeat paradigm.

                                            Africa 70 plays with unprecedented fire: the four-piece horn section was never more majestic; the nagging riffs and ostinatos of the tenor and rhythm guitars never more insistent. Allen is a lithe-limbed colossus, his soon-to-be signature rhythms at times pushing the band forward with extraordinary percussive power, at others drawing it back like a coiled spring, only to unleash it again. Three conga drummers support him. Kuti's screaming multi-octave glissandos on the organ climax an incantatory solo, and the track's concluding drums and horns passage is Africa 70 at its most epic.

                                            'Why Black Man Dey Suffer' is a more formative affair. It's one of a series of early 1970s' albums which made the transition between the highlife and jazz blend of Kuti and Allen's first band, Koola Lobitos, and the turbulent magnificence of mature Afrobeat. Trumpeter Tunde Williams, baritone saxophonist Lekan Animashaun and first conga player Henry Kofi, from later line-ups including that on Alagbon Close, are also in place.

                                            Fela Kuti & His Koola Lobitos

                                            Koola Lobitos / 69 LA Sessions

                                              A new reissue that unearths a series of previously unreleased sides recorded between 1964 and 1968 with Fela's first band, Koola Lobitos. These songs are steeped in the style of highlife jazz that was popular in African clubs, a fiery hybrid of Latin jazz, rhythm and blues, even calypso. With most of the vocals sung in his native Nigerian, the music is bubbling over with punchy brass arrangements, simmering percussion, and bass grooves that mortar the sound. Highlights include an ode to Nigerian nightlife, "Highlife Time," and "Omuti Tide," with Fela's tongue-in-cheek phrasing of "When the Saints Go Marching In" during his trumpet solo. The '69 L.A. Sessions find Fela & Nigeria '70 fleshing out the sound that would bring him acclaim and popularity. Ensconced in the knowledge of the American black struggle of the time from a female companion in Los Angeles, his approach went from bright and snappy to contemplative and hypnotic without compromising the groove.

                                              Fela Kuti

                                              Confusion / Gentleman

                                                This, another installment from Knitting Factory's superb recollecting of Fela's original albums, includes two of the most notable albums from the mid-70s. 'Gentleman' is primarily a verbal battering of the post-colonial mentality of his fellow Africans (also abused elsewhere in other albums). This isn't the full-blooded political anger that would come about stronger in times to come, but it's a gentle step in that direction. It also marks the first album featuring tenor sax work by Fela himself, after Igo Chico had quit the band. 'Confusion', a single-track, 15 minute-long album two years after 'Gentleman', stands as a commentary of the state of affairs in downtown Lagos.

                                                Fela Kuti

                                                Everything Scatter / Noise For Vendor Mouth

                                                  These two albums date from 1975 and have some great instrumental 'dialogues' between trumpet, baritone and tenor sax who alternate lead on the especially good "Noise For Vendor Mouth".

                                                  Fela Kuti

                                                  Monkey Banana / Excuse O

                                                    Nigeria's Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was an African superstar and one of the first artists from that continent to achieve genuine success abroad. Crucial to the development of his style and ultimate title as the 'King of Afrobeat' was his 1969 tour of America. During his stay he was introduced to the philosophy of the Black Panthers and figures like Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver. It had an immense impact on his own politics and future lyrics whilst the LA funk scene helped to redefine his music as he moved away from high-life into the sax riffs, electric piano, bass rhythms and longer instrumental sections that came to characterise his work. His decision to sing in pidgin English also enabled him to popularise his work among dance markets in Europe and the US. These two albums reissued on one CD are from 1975 - "Monkey Banana" is a satirical swipe at the Nigerian status quo as he castigates the education system and the sense of alienation of members of Nigerian society. It's vintage Fela.

                                                    Fela Kuti

                                                    Original Sufferhead / ITT

                                                      After the government-sponsered murder of his mother, Fela briefly lived in exile in Ghana, returning to Nigeria in 1978. In 1979 he formed his own political party, MOP (Movement of the People), and at the start of the new decade renamed his band Egypt 80. From 1980-1983, Nigeria was under civilian rule, and it was a relatively peaceful period for Fela, who recorded and toured non-stop. "ITT" (1980) and "Original Sufferhead" (1981) were recorded in this period and are amongst his best, most sophisticated recordings. the sound is clean and dynamic and the grooves are some of the best he ever laid down.

                                                      Fela Kuti

                                                      Underground System

                                                        By the time of these recordings Fela Kuti was HIV positive, drug addicted and had been brutalised by continual imprisonments and beatings at the hands of the Nigerian authorities. Over a fifteen year period he had sung about injustice, persecution, the downtrodden and the poor. He championed everyman's right to a decent life, decent education and freedom from intolerance. He had his all too obvious faults but his music remains a testimony to a performer justifiably known as the 'King of Afro-beat'. The last album of newly recorded material to be released during Fela’s lifetime, 1992’s ‘Underground System’ is an outstanding swansong. While Fela’s recorded output slowed up as the 1980s progressed - largely as a result of ongoing arrests, beatings and jailings - his final years of recording produced some of his strongest work, notably ‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense’ (1986), ‘Beasts Of No Nation’ (1989), ‘Overtake Don Overtake Overtake’ (1990) and ‘Underground System’.

                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                        Underground System
                                                        Pansa Pansa

                                                        Fela Kuti And Egypt 80

                                                        Army Arrangement

                                                          "Army Arrangement" comes from 1985 and is co-produced by Bill Laswell (Material) with the likes of Bernie Worrell (P-Funk) and Sly Dunbar guesting, giving the tracks an extra electronic edge. The LP is a critique of Nigeria's attempt at democracy. Mired as the army-led government was in political corruption, it came as no surprise that this LP cemented Fela's reputation as an anti-government subversive and continued the spiral of arrests, beatings and imprisonments that marred his life.


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