16 November 2009

Monday's mp3: Another life for the Black President

Fela Kuti: The Best of the Black President (Knitting Factory)

Forget the flavor-of-the-month pop stars; the biggest name in global music, the biggest enduring name with lasting impact, may well be the sax-playing son of a Nigerian feminist and a Protestant minister. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, or simply Fela, went through a lot of music and a lot of politics in his life, and 12 years after his death his influence only seems to be growing. Bands playing Afropop, the funky, political big-band music he pioneered, seem to be popping up everywhere from New York to London, from Lagos to the Netherlands, from Ghana to Germany.

A decade ago, MCA Records re-released a number of Fela recordings on CD, though the packaging was sparse. Now Afrobeat fans can rejoice with the announcement by Knitting Factory Records to re-release the complete 45-title Fela discography on both CD and vinyl. At the same time, the new musical FELA!, directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, is opening on Broadway later this month. I'm envious of you folks in NYC who get first shot at the show, but in the meantime I'm grooving to the first release of the series, The Best of the Black President. The double album includes a generous 13 tracks, including many well-known songs (Lady, No Agreement part 2, Zombie). And it sounds great, though I've yet to go back and compare the sound quality to that of the MCA releases.

The folks behind this project have generously provided for your listening pleasure the track "Zombie," which lashes out at the Nigerian military. When it was released in 1977, it became hugely popular with the public and hugely annoying to the military, which sent 1,000 soldiers to attack. his compound. His diatribes against military abuses seem no less relevant today.

[mp3] Fela Kuti: Zombie
from the album The Best of the Black President

I'm excited about the releases coming throughout 2010, and hopeful that the Broadway musical will hit the road before too long.

More Fela Kuti:
Buy CD
Fela website at Knitting Factory
Fela! The Musical

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1 comment:

Juliette said...

You can buy the mp3 album for $5 right now at Amazon.com... I just got mine. Happy New Year!