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KNITTING FACTORY

"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

    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)

      ‘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 described 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.”

      TRACK LISTING

      2000 Blacks Got To Be Free
      Africa Centre Of The World

      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 lives on. Since his death in 1997, the Nigerian icon and Afrobeat originator has been transformed from musician’s musician with a cult-like following to a worldwide musical icon. Now Red Hot, the AIDS awareness organisation, has partnered with Knitting Factory Records to release a colourful collection of Fela Kuti compositions performed by cross-genre collaborators representing rock, hip hop, Americana, and classical.

        The release includes classic Fela anthems like ‘Lady’, recorded by tUnE-yArDs, ?uestlove (The Roots), Angelique Kidjo and Akua Naru, ‘Zombie’ recorded by Spoek Mathambo, Cerebral Cortex and Frown, and ‘Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am’ recorded by My Morning Jacket, Merrill Garbus (from tUnE-yArDs), and Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes) and ‘Sorrow, Tears & Blood’ reworked by the Kronos Quartet along with TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adembimpe.

        TRACK LISTING

        01. Buy Africa – Baloji & L’Orchestre De La Katuba Featuring Kuku
        02. Lady - TUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Angelique Kidjo + Akua Naru
        03. Yellow Fever - Spoek Mathambo + Zaki Ibrahim
        04. No Buredi - Nneka, Sinkane, Amayo + Superhuman Happiness
        05. Who No Know Go No - Just A Band + Childish Gambino
        06. Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am - My Morning Jacket W/ Merrill Garbus + Brittany Howard
        07. Sorrow Tears And Blood - TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone And Tunde Adebimpe, Kronos Quartet + Stuart Bogie
        08. ITT - Superhuman Happiness W/ Sahr Ngaujah, Abena Koomson + Rubblebucket
        09. Afrodisco Beat 2013 - Tony Allen, M1 + Baloji
        10. Gentleman - Just A Band, Bajah + Chance The Rapper
        11. Hi Life Time - GendEr Infinity
        12. Zombie - Spoek Mathambo + Cerebral Cortex + Frown
        13. Go Slow - King

        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

                      Shakara / London Scene

                        Fela's London Scene was one of the first recordings made by Fela and his newly named Nigeria 70, with recordings at Abbey Road and gigs scheduled around the album by Cream's Ginger Baker (who is said to have some uncredited time on the album). It is some of the earliest notions of Afro-beat. Fela is shaking off the highlife forms that he had been entertaining and moving to a deeper, more simmering groove. It also marks the beginning of a bit of his social commentary. He exhorts his fellow Africans to purchase African goods in "Buy Africa" and puts out a call to the Pan-African counterculture in "J'EHIN J'EHIN" and "Egbe Mi O." What one notices in this section of the album is a stripped-down groove that simmers until Fela finally breaks it out into a fully grown work of funk. In the Shakara section (with some 50 bare-breasted women on the cover helping sell the album), one finds fun (and perhaps shame) pointed at the westernizing African woman in "Lady" (espousing feminism, she believes herself equal to men, and espousing westernism, she takes on a delicate/weak form as a lady). In the title track the fun is poked instead at braggarts who don't back up their bravado. The main focus of this album, though, is to provide a good, danceable groove. This is exactly what Fela does. Pick it up as a landmark and a dance album together, but more importantly as a fan of Fela.

                        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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