Monday, November 3, 2008

Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, known primarily for being the pioneer of Afrobeat music. Fela was born the son of a minister, and was sent to England to learn medicine like his brothers -- but ended up following his passion for music instead. Kuti became a human-rights activist and political maverick of sorts -- his introduction to the Black Panthers/black power movement in America inspired a name-change for his group (
Koola Lobitos to the familiar Africa 70 band).

Fela Kuti & the Africa 70's music progressed down a politically-driven path, gaining wide acclaim throughout Nigeria/Africa -- but harbored too much attention by the ruling-government -- whom frequently raided his Kalatuka Republic (a commune/recording-studio Fela set-up for his band/family, independant of Nigeria).
This tension first peaked when police arrived with a search warrant to arrest Kuti, intending to frame him by planting a joint on his person. Kuti became aware of the ploy and swallowed the joint -- so the police waited to check his feces, but local cell-mates assisted Kuti (shit-swap) and he was released -- all of which he recounted on his album, '
Expensive Shit'.

Fela critiqued and attacked the Nigerian government/military in his album '
Zombie', which sparked another raid on the Kalatuka Republic. Fela was beaten to near-death, saved by one ranking officer -- his mother thrown from a window and killed.
The military burned the Kalatuka Republic, including Fela's studio/master tapes and all of his instruments. Fela reacted by delivering the coffin of his mother to the main army barracks in Lagos -- with the official statement being that an "unknown soldier" had destroyed the commune
(recounted by Kuti's songs "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Soldier").

After a slump with the Africa 70, Kuti formed his own political party (
Movement of the People) and tried to run for President for over a decade -- never being accepted as a nominee. He reformed/renamed his group to the Egypt 80, and continued to persevere with his music despite constant harassment from the government (was arrested again under currency-smuggling charges).

Fela's death was greeted by more than a million people at his funeral -- which took place at his Shrine in the remaining Kalatuka Republic.
In both his music and his life, Kuti was a fearless revolutionary who shook the foundations of establishment -- constantly overcoming odds and rising to personal and critical success.

"Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense"

Without a of the most influential/inspirational human-beings to grace the planet. I'd recommend watching this documentary if you're interested in more of his personal/musical endevours.

Confusion [1975]

Expensive Shit [1975]

Zombie [1976]

Afrobeat Jazz (various)
mind the graves