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FELA! On Broadway, World Tour!

It’s been quite a journey, these last 7 years&#;

I remember making that infamous Zombie phrase in a friend’s apartment the night before the first audition. I recall convincing the producer to put an exclamation point at the end of Fela’s name so that people might pronounce it right. In reflection I see brilliant flashes all of the amazing artists whose sweat blood and prowess made this show what it is; the famous yellow fever solos and less than glorious disasters transgressed by the will of a story to be told, an urgent energy to be released- on multiple continents.

Now I watch from afar as this tour comes to a close, in Oakland of all places where I was first initiated into African & Modern dance before moving on to New York where I happened to open a door for the legendary Bill T. Jones, joined his company and subsequently he opened a universe for me&#; and for all of us.
To give proper weight to the sheer immensity of this experience- the making, and re-making of FELA! would require a series of volumes, including stories from workshop productions at Alvin Ailey, Ballet Hispanico and 37 Arts, off-Broadway, FELA! on-Broadway, the National Theater of London, the European tour, NIGERIA! at the Afrika Shrine and EKO, the first national tour, and the present tour.

Where does this wild journey lead? What has this creative struggle, with its serious challenges and epic moments prepared us for? How can we define the significance of FELA!’s legacy on cultural consciousness- in dance, music theater or social activism?

Each and every one of you is the answer. Every song you write, design you dream, class you teach, collaboration you inform- this is the stuff art is made of. Stardust, so elusive, is our life force, our very composition, but only those who have felt the power of a star in full burn can know that it is composed by a collection of star dust on fire. By being part of this production you have illuminated the souls in observance &#; otherwise known as audiences- and inspired the colleagues you link arms with tonight. Cry, for you will miss them. Reminisce on what went down, what was shared here, and your stake in all of it. Remember how each show surpassed what seemed impossible before you knocked on Fela’s door & became part of Kalakuta, before you claimed the ‘aesthetic of the cool’ or, as we discovered in Lagos, the aesthetic of HEAT! Laugh because this journey is what dreams are made of. Most of all, be proud that you are forever a part of the fabric of possibility.

With these words, I stand before you and bow deeply, with great reverence.
Wishing I could see you all take your final bow, and dance out the last horn riff of Gentleman as I always did, disregarding most of my notes by curtain call because your open hearts carry the coffin and that means everything.

In you I see a thousand moons, I see ten thousand people whose efforts lent themselves to this production in some way throughout the years, and I see millions of people moved. If only ‘the clock’ could measure the scope of how many lives have been touched by this work, it would tick wildly with the power a people who devoutly believe Music IS the weapon of the future and indeed, the future is now.

This is not the end, its merely a SHORT BREAK ;;-)

Maija G

Letter congratulating Michelle Williams &#; from Beyonce





Fela kuti youtube

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Fela Kuti Zombie YouTube

3 hours ago Zombie () Fela KutiFrom the LP Zombie (CD release )Subscribe & Everybody say "Yeah Yeah" Get Fela's Zombie as your Caller Tu

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Fela Kuti Gentleman (LP) YouTube

3 hours ago Gentleman (LP) () Fela Kuti Songs include Gentleman / Igbe (Na Shit) / Fe Fe Ne Eye Fe video is part of a series of son

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Fela Kuti Afrodisiac YouTube

3 hours ago 01 "Alu Jon Jonki" - 02 "Jeun Ko Ku (Chop 'n Quench)" - 03 "Eko Ile" - 04 "Je'nwi Temi (Don't Gag Me)" -

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Fela Kuti Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense (LP) YouTube

3 hours ago Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense LP () Fela Kuti Songs include - Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense (Part 1 & 2) / Look And Laugh (Part 1 & 2) / Just like

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9 things to know about Fela Kuti's daughter Shalewa

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Top 15 Fela Kuti songs of all time

1 hours ago Many of them gathered over a million views on Fela Kuti YouTube channel. Best Fela Kuti songs. About thirty years of active songwriting activity. Over 40 albums. You can hardly think of any other artiste as productive as Fela Kuti. Moreover, in the case of this renowned singer, a colossal number of tracks did not result in their diminished quality.

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Fela Kuti – 10 of the best Fela Kuti The Guardian

9 hours agoFela Kuti’s 10 of the best on YouTube. 6. Expensive Shit. The very literal story behind Expensive Shit is mind-boggling to the extent that it would be funny were it not so depressing. In

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Home Fela Kuti

1 hours ago Home - Fela Kuti. Story. Olufela Olusegun Oludoton Ransome-Kuti - Fela - is born on 15 October in Abeokuta, a town fifty miles north of Lagos. Fela begins learning the piano, encouraged by his father, who believes studying music is an essential part of a good education. On a visit to Lagos, Fela meets Jimo Kombi Braimah, known to

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Official Fela Kuti Official Youtube Channel Youtube Channel

3 hours agoFela is a Youtube Channel from Nigeria. The youtube channel is owned by Fela Anikulapo Kuti whose stage name is Fela Kuti. It provides content in the Native Language and English in the following category (ies): Music. Fela Kuti is a Solo Artist whose genre of music is Afro Beat, Highlife.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 min

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Fela Kuti Kalakuta Show YouTube Music

5 hours agoFela Kuti - Kalakuta Show from the album Kalakuta Show EMI Records If you like the music, please support the artists by BUYING IT!

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Fela AnikulapoKuti and Egypt 80 Beasts YouTube Music

5 hours ago The Official Fela Kuti Website Subscribe & Everybody say "Yeah Yeah" Previously unreleased footage, live at

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Fela Kuti YouTube Music

8 hours agoFela An&#;k&#;l&#;p&#; Kuti also known as Abami Eda was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer, political activist, and Pan-Africanist. He is regarded as the pioneer of Afrobeat, an African music genre that combines traditional Yoruba with funk and jazz. At the height of his popularity, he was referred to as one of Africa's most "challenging and charismatic music performers".

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Fela Kuti Official Playlist (Songs & LP's)

4 hours ago A new music service with official albums, singles, videos, remixes, live performances and more for Android, iOS and desktop. It's all here.

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How Fela Kuti changed the game with Afrobeat British GQ

9 hours agoFela Kuti and Africa 70’s Coffin For Head Of State, Finding Fela is available to rent on Amazon, YouTube and Google Play. Now read. Iggy Pop has an unbelievable car collection.

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Fela Kuti Documentary Heaven

Just NowFela Kuti. “Fela Kuti Music is the Weapon” is about the Afrobeat legend, musician, composer and performer, mixes footage of Fela Anikulapo Kuti performing at his Shrine nightclub, interviews with the controversial musician, glimpses of life at his not-so-palatial Kalakuta Republic compound, and scenes of Lagos street life.

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Fela Kuti : Best Ever Albums

Just NowFela Kuti from Nigeria. The top ranked albums by Fela Kuti are Zombie, Expensive Shit and Gentleman. The top rated tracks by Fela Kuti are Zombie, Water No Get Enemy, Roforofo Fight, Gentleman and Expensive Shit. This artist appears in charts and has received 2 comments and 22 ratings from site members. This artist is rated in the top 1% of all artists on BestEverAlbums

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Fela Kuti Zombie (Edit) (Official Audio) YouTube Music

6 hours ago Stream/download "Zombie (Edit)" here: More info here: The most inflammatory album Fela had released

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Our Fashion Story at Fela Kuti’s New Afrika Shrine in

6 hours agoFela Kuti at the Shrine, During Fela's lifetime, the Shrine was often forced to change locations. (At one point it was part of a complex he named the Kalakuta Republic, an …

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Fela Kuti Wikipedia

4 hours agoFela An&#;k&#;l&#;p&#; Kuti (born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti; 15 October – 2 August ) also known as Abami Eda was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer, political activist, and Pan-Africanist.He is regarded as the pioneer of Afrobeat, an African music genre that combines traditional Yoruba percussion and vocal styles with American funk and jazz.

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Fela Kuti IMDb

6 hours agoFela Kuti, Soundtrack: Run Fatboy Run. Fela Kuti was born on October 15, in Abeokuta, Nigeria as Olufela Olusegum Oludotun Ransome-Kuti. He is known for his work on Run Fatboy Run (), The Visitor () and Juda (). He died on August 2, in Lagos, Nigeria.

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Fela Kuti reddit

4 hours agor/felakuti: A subreddit dedicated to Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti. I first heard Look & Laugh (L&L) years ago, and must have listened to it close to times since (excellent background music).

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Watch Erykah Badu Cover Fela Kuti on “Fallon” Pitchfork

1 hours ago Badu’s limited-run Fela Kuti box set includes seven “personal essays” written by Badu, never-before-published photos of Kuti, and “in-depth commentaries by veteran music journalist and

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How Fela Kuti came to be celebrated by those he sang

6 hours ago When Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died of AIDS in at the age of 58, over one million Nigerians attended his funeral at the Tafawa Balewa Square in …

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Download Best of Fela Kuti Songs Mp3 Mixtape OldNaija

7 hours ago Brief Biography of Fela Kuti. Fela Kuti was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on the 15 th of October, , in Abeokuta, the capital city of Ogun State. Fela was a musician and a political activist who pioneered his own unique style of music called “ Afrobeat .”. He used Afrobeat as a weapon for fighting against military

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Twitter Discusses Fela Kuti & His Impact On Afrobeat

2 hours ago A quick look at the Fela Kuti trending topic on Twitter features one user, The Beat FM’s Osi Suave, giving younger listeners a history lesson on how big of an artist Kuti was.

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Fela Kuti Radio YouTube

9 hours ago Posts about Fela Kuti written by fred A Personal History of African Music. I wasn’t planning to write this but I thought, after the World Cup had tried to celebrate the African dimension in football, I would comment on and play some African music, that I liked and influenced me, as a chronology (non-stop playlist on YouTube here).It is also Nelson Mandela Day today so as well as singing

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Fela Kuti Lyrics, Songs, and Albums Genius

6 hours agoFela Anikulapo Kuti (15 October – 2 August ) was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat genre, and human rights activist. His music

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Zombie — Fela Kuti

4 hours ago Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti (15 October – 2 August ), known professionally as Fela Kuti, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of Afrobeat music, human rights activist, political maverick & leader of Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa HMV Magazine ranked him

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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominates Afrobeat king Fela Kuti

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The Best Fela Kuti Songs OkayAfrica

8 hours ago Veteran DJ Rich Medina, who introduced an American generation to Afrobeat, ranks the 10 best Fela Kuti songs. Today marks the anniversary of the passing of Fela Kuti

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Zombie Fela Kuti Songs, Reviews, Credits AllMusic

Just Now Zombie was the most popular and impacting record that Fela Kuti & Africa 70 would record -- it ignited the nation to follow Fela's lead and antagonize the military zombies that had the population by the throat. Fela is direct and humorous in his attack as he barks out commands to the soldiers like: "Attention! Double up! Fall In! Fall out! Fall down! Get read

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Two New Fela Kuti Reissues Are Soon To Drop American

5 hours ago Earlier in , Fela’s son, Femi, and grandson, Made, released solo records to much fanfare. In addition, Kuti was among the nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of He is

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Fela Anikulapo Kuti – Army Arrangement (, Vinyl) Discogs

5 hours ago Producer – Bill Laswell, Fela *, Material, OAO. Recorded By, Mixed By – Robert Musso. Rhythm Guitar – Chukwudi Aroga, Keji Ifarunmi. Soprano Saxophone – Fela Anikulapo Kuti *. Talking Drum – Aiyb Dieng ( tracks: A) Tenor Saxophone – Oyinade Adeniran.

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Erykah Badu Curates New Fela Kuti Box Set Pitchfork

9 hours agoFela Kuti Box Set #4 is available in a limited 3,copy run on December 15 via Knitting Factory Records. It includes Badu’s “favorite Fela Piece of all time,” and comes with a booklet

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Why it's time to stop searching for Fela Kuti's successor

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Fela! On Broadway

Just NowFela! On Broadway. It’s been quite a journey, these last 7 years…. I remember making that infamous Zombie phrase in a friend’s apartment the night before the first audition. I recall convincing the producer to put an exclamation point at the end of Fela’s name so that people might pronounce it …

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Fela – Box Set 1 (, Vinyl) Discogs

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Fela Kuti: Our Interview SPIN

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Ghana joins Nigeria, eight other countries to celebrate

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The Music and Genius of Fela Kuti: Remembering Nigeria's

1 hours ago The soldiers flung Fela’s year-old mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, out of a window on the top floor of the building and died from her injuries in April The events inspired Fela’s most emotive album, the classic Unknown Soldier, referencing the government’s claim that unknown soldiers had destroyed his commune.

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Femi Kuti Shares Epic Throwback Photo Of Fela Kuti To

1 hours ago Afrobeat musician, Femi Kuti has taken to social media to share an epic throwback photo of his Afrobeat legend father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti in celebration of his posthumous birthday. Naija News understands that the Nigerian musician and activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was born on the 15th of October and would have marked his 83rd birthday, if

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the interesting facts about Fela Kuti?

So below are our 5 fun facts about the late Fela Kuti: Fela defied his parents for music. The singer was sent to London in to study Medicine but instead decided to switch to study Music. Fela built his own little country in Nigeria. Fela built the Kalakuta Republic his own personal domain, as an act of rebellion. Fela married 27 women in one day. Fela ran for President in More items

What type of music did Fela Kuti sing?

Fela Kuti, byname of Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, also called Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, (born October 15, , Abeokuta, Nigeria-died August 2, , Lagos), Nigerian musician and activist who launched a modern style of music called Afro-beat , which fused American blues, jazz, and funk with traditional Yoruba music.

What style of music does Fela Kuti perform?

The musical style of Kuti is called Afrobeat, a style he largely created, which is a complex fusion of jazz, funk, Ghanaian highlife, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chants and rhythms. Afrobeat also borrows heavily from the native "tinker pan".

  1. Modern wood boxes
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Fela Kuti songs are phenomenal in both groove and lyrics. This strong and fearless artiste fought injustice with his tracks. Wonder, reverence, and admiration are the emotions that arise when you listen to his songs. If you want to listen to timeless music with a deep meaning and a story behind each track, this article is for you.

Fela Kuti songs

We have picked the best songs ever written by the artiste. Many of them gathered over a million views on Fela Kuti YouTube channel.

Best Fela Kuti songs

About thirty years of active songwriting activity. Over 40 albums. You can hardly think of any other artiste as productive as Fela Kuti. Moreover, in the case of this renowned singer, a colossal number of tracks did not result in their diminished quality. Every song written and recorded by this legend of Afrobeat is thoroughly thought through and polished to perfection.

As the list of all Fela Kuti songs would have been impressively long and impossible to grasp in one session, we are offering you top 15 Fela Kuti tracks for your consideration.

1. Zombie

Zombie is, perhaps, one of the most influential tracks by Fela Kuti. With this song, the performer sarcastically describes the military people as zombies who blindly follow each command without giving a thought to their actions. The tune and beat of the track together with its mocking lyrics made the audience love it immediately, and it became an instant banger.

Unfortunately, such popularity of the hit attracted the attention of the government that considered it as a personal insult. Thus, not long after the release of the song, furious military forces were sent to the residence of Kuti. Many people were hurt badly in this incident, including the famous singer and his mother. Now you have a chance to listen to this track without such dramatic consequences, so enjoy this masterpiece to the full.

2. Expensive S**t

This legendary banger is said to be based on a real-life story that happened to the singer. After numerous failed attempts to arrest Fela Kuti, police decided to plant a cigarette with mari*uana on the singer. He reacted quickly by swallowing it. Thirsty for evidence, police held Kuti under arrest for three days to get a sample of his faeces for analysis. To their distress, the analysis showed that the performer was clean. Today, we can only wonder about what really happened and why the laboratory results were negative. However, the track inspired by the incident is always available for us to appreciate.

3. Original Sufferhead

The track was created after yet another attempt of the government to silence the singer, which again took the form of an assault on his home. It seemed that nothing could break him, as in Kuti released his Original Sufferhead. In this song, he accuses the Nigerian government of corruption and theft that leads to the impoverishment of the nation. Being a true patriot of his country, Fela just cannot watch silently as Nigeria struggles to stay afloat.

4. Water No Get Enemy

Fela Kuti Water No Get Enemy is a work of pure philosophy. Critics and musical journalists still argue about what Kuti really wanted to say using water as a metaphor. Some say that this literary device stands for the nature of social interactions; others state that, in such way, the singer describes harmonious relations among people. Listen to the song and make your own opinion on the hit.

5. Lady

Fela Kuti Lady track is quite controversial. In it, the singer tells the audience what he thinks of a Nigerian woman, her place in the society of the s. He does not believe that a woman is equal to a man; he does not believe in her independence. Such harsh statements could cause him a lot of trouble in today’s world. However, thinking about how many hardships the singer endured due to his political songs back in his days, we do not think that a mere frown from society would have stopped the performer from proclaiming his opinions in his tracks.

READ ALSO: History of Fela Kuti's death

6. Coffin For Head Of State

This track is definitely the most sombre in Fela Kuti songs list. In Coffin For Head Of State, the singer mourns his mother who died after the attack on his residence. In this song, he openly blames President Obasanjo, who was the head of the Nigerian government at those days, for this death. The track is very personal and evokes reverence.

7. International Thief Thief (I.T.T)

In International Thief Thief (I.T.T), Fela accuses international corporations of pumping money from African countries. Moreover, he claims that they reach their dirty goals by bribing people of influential positions:

Friend friend to journalist / Friend friend to Commissioner / Friend friend to Permanent Secretary / Friend friend to Minister / Friend friend to Head of State

And having such convenient connections they:

Then start start to steal money / Start start them corruption / Start start them inflation / Start start them oppression / Start start them confusion / Start start them oppression / Start start to steal money / Start start to steal money

8. Sorrow, Tears and Blood

Sorrow, Tears and Blood is yet another work of Fela Kuti brought about by the attack on his residence in This comparatively even song tells a sad story about the police raids that cause confusion and panic among people. Citizens are afraid of the army and police because “they leave Sorrow, Tears, and Blood,” and the singer being the voice of ordinary people sings:

We fear to fight for freedom / We fear to fight for liberty / We fear to fight for justice We fear to fight for happiness
We no want die / We no want wound / We no want quench / We no want go

Such a miserable situation really depresses the artiste, and he cannot keep all these emotions to himself. Therefore, Fela writes this mournful song.

9. Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense

It is a profound song in which the singer ponders over the source of problems in African countries, namely:

Problems of inflation / Problems of corruption / Of mismanagement / Stealing by government

Fela states that every government has a teacher, and it is the culture of each nation. However, in the case of African countries, European colonists were the teachers that thought the Africans not democracy, but “dem-o-cr-azy” with its corruption and stealing. Therefore, the artiste sings “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense.”


In this song, Fela Kuti expresses his disdain at the post-colonial ways that were strongly pronounced in African society of his days. The singer claims that Africa is too hot for being a gentleman, meaning that European rules, customs, etc. cannot be applied to a country with a different mentality, its own unique traditions and culture. Africans are quite alright being Africans; they do not need to be Europeans.

Trouble Sleep, Yanga Wake AM

Trouble Sleep, Yanga Wake Am is a track that subtly describes how the government oppresses people who do their best to survive. By wrapping oppression in the fabric of short stories about different people, Kuti evokes more sympathy from the audience.


In Shakara, the singer mocks braggers who can never live up to their boasts. The tune of the track is lively, and the groove is simply hypnotising.

Beast Of No Nation

In this song, the artiste tells us about the injustice that he and other common people regularly encounter:

Na be outside- dem find me guilty / Na be outside- dem jail me five years / I no do nothing

Fela Kuti is especially angered by the Nigerian government that called Nigerians “us-e-less,” “sens-i-less,” and said that they “lack[ed] discipline.”

Shuffering and Shmiling

Shuffering and Shmiling touches upon a sensitive topic of religion. Kuti is concerned about the fact that his people are divided by different religions that are present in Nigeria. He thinks that this is another obstacle that keeps the nation from true unification.

Unknown Soldier

Unknown Soldier is another track that was inspired by the notorious attack of In this song, the singer describes the events that took place then. He picked such name for this work because later the press said that unknown soldiers were the ones who committed the crimes during that attack. This is also reflected in the track:

Which kind injustice is this? / Wetin concern government inside? / If na unknown soldier / I said, wetin concern government inside? / If na unknown soldier / We get unknown police / We get unknown soldier / We get unknown civilian / All is equal to unknown government

Fela Kuti songs evoke admiration. This legendary man fought for a positive change in his country. With his songs, Kuti inspired people and gave them the strength to struggle against injustice. Fela’s tracks are sincere and heartfelt. Maybe, this is the reason they have stayed popular till our days.

READ ALSO: Top Yoruba music artists of all time


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Fela Kuti – 10 of the best

1. It’s Highlife Time (with Koola Lobitos)

Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was born on 15 October in Abeokuta, Nigeria to influential upper middle-class parents. His mother was one of Nigeria’s leading feminists and a prominent anti-colonial protester while his father, a preacher, was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. They planned careers in medicine for their three sons (and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti would go on to become the Nigerian health minister) but Fela, a rebel from the outset, switched courses within days of arriving in London to study. While he was attending Trinity College of Music between and he formed the Koola Lobitos. He led this highlife-influenced jazz band, as a trumpet player, taking full advantage of the underground London craze for African dance music in the s.

2. My Lady Frustration

Fela’s musical awakening happened over several years and in a handful of countries. After learning his chops in the UK, he started formulating his own sound while gigging in Ghana and Nigeria. But things really started to take shape during an otherwise ill-starred tour of America in It was during a stop at Los Angeles that he first met Sandra Smith, an African-American civil rights activist who had spent three months in jail after assaulting a police officer at a Black Panthers rally. It was through meeting her that he first began to think in an Afro-conscious way. As he told the journalist Carlos Moore: “Sandra gave me the education I wanted. She was the one who opened my eyes … She talked to me about politics, history … she blew my mind really.” While reading her copy of Malcolm X’s autobiography he realised that he wanted to play African music, and the “Fela Kuti sound” was finally born. Smith was the inspiration for this track: Kuti had been wearing out his welcome at her family’s house, running up phone bills, wrecking cars, draining resources and making little headway with his music. Towards the end of his elongated American misadventure he debuted My Lady Frustration in a nightclub. The response, finally, was rapturous.

3. Ye Ye De Smell (live with the Africa ’70 and Ginger Baker)

Fela Kuti was playing with the Koola Lobitos in London’s Flamingo club in the mid 60s when he first met Ginger Baker. The pair got on and when the drummer flew out to Lagos in and heard Afrobeat playing on Nigerian radio, he decided to hook up with the horn player. (Baker would go on to fall in love with Lagos and its musical culture to the extent that he built a track studio called Batakota there, despite there being a war raging at the time.) Later that year Baker flew back to London with Kuti and his group, Africa They played a collaborative gig at Abbey Road in front of guests which would get released by EMI Nigeria as Live!. The four-track album is, by any sane standard, one of the greatest live documents of all time and features not one but two of the era’s most brilliant drummers (Tony Allen being the other).

Live! should have been the start of a beautiful creative partnership. Other recordings were discussed and a joint tour was booked, but when a pal of Kuti’s was discovered by officials at Heathrow with a large amount of marijuana hidden in a drum and carrying only Ginger Baker’s address, Baker was immediately arrested. The subsequent fall-out led to Baker’s daughter getting expelled from private school, and the plans for the group fell apart.

4. Roforofo Fight

After Fela returned to Nigeria from the US, his career quickly gained traction. In he formed a commune called the Kalakuta Republic and set up a recording studio. He also founded a nightclub in the Empire Hotel, changing the name from the Afro-Spot to The Shrine in His fame grew and he used his platform at The Shrine to promote resistance to dictatorship and pan-African socialism. He also awarded himself a new name, Anikulapo, which translates as “the one who carries death in his quiver”, to replace his colonial or slave name. (His grandfather was the Reverend Canon JJ Ransome Kuti, a pioneer of the Yoruba Christian Church who composed religious hymns. Sensing his talent, missionaries took him to England to make recordings for EMI and gave him the name of Ransome.)

Roforofo Fight was the first Fela Kuti song I heard when I moved to London in the mid 90s, which seemed to be in the grips of a mini-Fela revival at the time. It certainly never seemed to be off the decks at Bar Rumba during Gilles Peterson and James Lavelle’s riotous Monday night session, That’s How It Is!. Tony Allen’s galloping but intricate beat is only possible when all four limbs are locked into completely independent patterns, which caused Kuti to comment that having Allen was like having four drummers in his band. The thunderous drums lay the groundwork for a glorious battle of alto, tenor and baritone saxophones.

5. Gentleman

This record is DJ gold dust. The groove is introduced for just a few tantalising bars before it is replaced by Fela’s sax, vamping magisterially and teasingly on its own, and then hitting the melody line over a crisp snare beat. And just as you’re starting to wonder what the hell is going on – at , the same point most other singles are looking at their watches and considering buggering off – the song proper suddenly kicks in with a brutally effective bass line. It’s hard to comprehend how anyone could make such life-affirming, inspirational and joyful music for over a quarter of a century while enduring constant violence, harassment and oppression at the hands of the state. But part of his music’s effectiveness came from the fact that it often consisted of a militant message couched in uplifting form. Kuti’s lyrics were the iron fist in the velvet glove and the fact that he mainly chose to sing in pidgin English was one reason he became so popular not just across Nigeria but in other African countries, too.

6. Expensive Shit

The very literal story behind Expensive Shit is mind-boggling to the extent that it would be funny were it not so depressing. In the police grew tired of just targeting Kuti’s shows at The Shrine and started raiding the Kalakuta commune where he lived with his band, his many wives and his entourage. A lot of grass was being smoked there, which offered an easy excuse to bring Kuti into custody. But during the second big raid on his house, and in the absence of any drugs, the police resorted to planting some on him. At least, one officer tried to when the saxophonist grabbed the joint off him and ate it. After failing to persuade a doctor to pump his stomach to retrieve the spliff, the powers that be decided to lock him up and wait for their evidence to re-emerge naturally. Unbeknownst to his guards, Kuto waited each night until they were asleep and passed waste into a communal bucket but then complained of constipation to them when they awoke the next morning. Three days later, the entire police station was mystified when he “finally” decided to go and passed a drug-free stool into a pail under their watchful eyes. Kuti not only got to walk free by he also got to cock a snook at his jailers with this satirical track the following year. But his luck with the authorities would not hold out.

7. Lady

Anyone using the word “complicated” to describe a male musician who looks down on or is violent towards women is, at best, indulging in some kind of dishonest and slightly grubby special pleading. You only have to listen to the sardonic Lady and the frankly appalling Mattress or read Kuti’s officially sanctioned biography, This Bitch of a Life, to realise he had a problem with women. He used open-palmed slaps to sort out quarrels between his many wives and to end arguments with them. He was brought up to see violence as a legitimate domestic strategy by his parents, who both beat him viciously – his mother worse than his father – during his childhood. By the time he was an adult he clearly thought that women were inferior and needed to be dominated by men. There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that Fela Kuti was a misogynist.

It does need to be said, however, that this wasn’t a view generally held by his wives; many of whom found a chance to pursue artistic ambitions and enjoy freedoms as part of the Kalakuta Republic that they wouldn’t have otherwise been offered. To ignore Kuti’s attitude towards women is wrongheaded, but to paint him as the sole or primary villain in his own narrative – given the physical persecution he and his wives suffered from the Nigerian authorities – is equally disingenuous.

8. No Agreement

No Agreement is not only Fela Kuti’s best track but one of the greatest pieces of dance music ever recorded. It is a masterclass in composition built from the most basic of building blocks. It’s a loose-limbed funk banger but also feels analogous to a techno track: slowly building, receding and then slowly building once more. The pared-down rhythmic and melodic lines slowly click over a quarter of an hour, like cog teeth biting together in some gloriously complex clockwork machine. The muscularity of the groove only properly asserts itself for brief moments during the track, as befits musicians who truly understood the concept of delayed gratification. It’s a rough and ready recording and a glorious track. The Afrobeat sound Kuti developed with Tony Allen found its strength through diversity: rather than being a pure African invention it was heavily influenced by the popular, radical music of black America, notably the funk of James Brown and jazz. Ghanaian and Nigerian highlife can also be heard high in the mix, as well as traditional west African ritual music. Despite the clear links to Kuti’s African heritage this was a very modern style of music and he certainly had a very progressive attitude towards his art; he considered tracks to be “finished” once they were recorded and never revisited them again.

9. Coffin for Head of State

More than his best friend and longtime collaborator JK Braimah; more than the inspirational co-creator of the Afrobeat sound Tony Allen; more than the woman responsible for his political epiphany, Sandra Smith; the most important and influential person in Fela’s life was his mother, Funmilayo. During a particularly severe military raid on the Kalakuta compound in , sparked off by the massive anti-military hit single Zombie, the year-old was thrown from a third-floor window by drunken soldiers. She did not recover from her injuries and died three months later after lapsing into a coma. The following year, on Nigerian Independence Day, 1 October – General Olusegun Obasanjo, the dictator who had made Fela’s existence such a misery, was due to bring 13 years of military rule to an end by handing over power to Shehu Shagari. On Obasanjo’s last day in office, Fela and his wives carried his mother’s coffin to the gates of the Dodan Barracks, where Obasanjo lived. After shots were fired and following a tense stand-off at gunpoint, they were eventually allowed to leave the casket at the gates. It was a remarkable act of defiance, even in a life characterised by many such actions. But his mother’s death signalled a huge change in Kuti’s life. After a decade spent in direct conflict with Nigeria’s establishment, he was wounded permanently by her loss.

His own resolve to resist politically never left him. As his biographer Carlos Moore said: “Until his last breath, Fela was a proud thorn in the flesh of every military or civilian despot that occupied the revolving presidential chair in Nigeria, a distinction that made his position nearly untenable.” But during the 80s and 90s every other aspect of his life started to erode. His music became more introspective and sombre, and he began to suffer from depression, talking openly about suicidal impulses. His physical health began to suffer drastically after he contracted Aids – a condition he steadfastly refused to acknowledge he had right until his death in And all the time, the beatings, the arrests and the imprisonments continued unabated.

Africa, Center of the World (with Roy Ayers)

It has long been a favourite theme of dystopian fantasy that the only true escape available to the subjects of oppressive dictatorships is the one offered by madness. By the early s, Fela Kuti was fully engaged in a spiritual project to make himself completely invulnerable to death by the use of both traditional and newly invented magic rituals. His new belief system included spiritually bulletproof cloaks, UFO contact and chicken sacrifice. Paranoia and confusion became the order of the day among his inner circle.

It would be wrong to say that all, or even most, of Fela’s music after this point was bad; in fact a lot of it has great merit. By the late 80s he had rejected the term Afrobeat, preferring to think of his work as African classical music and his output became less ecstatic.

But I’m going to end on another personal favourite, Africa, Center of the World, the B-side to the Roy Ayers collaboration 2, Blacks Got to Be Free, recorded in when his belief in pan-Africanism was still firm, clear-sighted and hopeful.


Fela kuti youtube

They chatted a little more, she allowed him to sit next to her as a sign of reconciliation. He casually touched her knee, shoulder and arms at every opportunity. It got very late. The man went to the shower, but she quickly turned off the light and pretended to be asleep, facing the wall. This little adventure inflamed her imagination, her lower abdomen became heavy.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Egypt 80, Live at the Zenith, Paris in 1984

Although he knew why he was going. Taking off my pants, she began to eagerly and diligently caress my penis. When she pulled off my pants, the penis was already 80 percent. But still, while she began to suck, I managed to enjoy this divine sensation of not quite erect penis in a woman's mouth.

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