A few weeks ago, I discovered the Fela Kuti tribute album “Red Hot + Riot: The Music and Spirit of Fela Kuti” while searching for something totally different. After hearing a few snippets on Amazon, I knew I had to have this very eclectic compilation album.
Five days after ordering, the CD was in my mailbox waiting to be played. So after dinner the night it arrived, I headed down to my office to take a listen. Four hours later, I was hooked to each song & listened to the CD like 4 times non-stop. The music was very Afrobeat-Licious & I was loving every beat, lyric & message. The music is Afro-Political & applicable throughout the Diaspora.
Honestly speaking, I never explored the music of Fela Kuti “the father of Afrobeat”, so this Red Hot album was the perfect jump off point for me to explore his legacy. Before I get into this discovery let me talk more about the Red Hot album.
I really don’t know where to start breaking down this album because it is all over the place, in terms of melody, tempo, poly-rhythms & themes but they seem to point to one common place & that is freedom, political awareness & unity. Ok, that’s three places, sorry.
One of my stand out favorites is “Shakara/Lady (Part Two)” by Cheikh Lo, Les Nubians and Manu Dibango. I later learned this is a remake of Fela’s original but much more up-tempo & sexier. This version makes me dance & envision carnival style parades. If you know nothing of African dance this song will make you feel like you have been doing it for years.
My other heavily repeated jam is “Zombie (Part One)” by Bugz In The Attic (originally released by Fela in 1977, “zombie” was a metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military (thx wikipedia). This song is mid tempo, fun & the lyrics are infectious. I was singing along instantly & did not even know what the fuck I was saying half the time. When I played this for cousin Dee the 1st time, she was like OMG, this is my new jam.
“Water No Get Enemy” with D’Angelo, Macy Gray, Femi Kuti & the Soultronic is one of the more Afro-Political cuts on the CD. This cut is down tempo but makes you wanna dance & yet wonder WTF; this message is deep. Something we take for granted because it’s readily available but yet so difficult to obtain for many around the world; specially speaking, in Africa.
Lastly, my absolutely favorite cut is “So Be It” by Kelis. Why, well because it’s by Kelis & she is Fine as hell!!! Besides that, the message is on point & so related to what is going on now, then & before then. This cut too is another political piece but now that I know more about Fela, so were the majority of his releases. Kelis is multi talented; it’s a shame that she gets no love commercially. Well maybe if she did, I might not like her as much as I do. I really appreciate her quirky since of style in music & fashion.
OK, Back to my discovery of Fela Kuti. So after getting acquainted with his music via the red Hot album, I discovered a ton of his stuff on iTunes & eMusic, & downloaded like 15 songs in one drunken night.
For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been taken aback from the messages that Fela communicated though music. He took on many sociopolitical issues but the ones that resonate with me are the messages of Black Nationalism, Pan Africanism, & empowerment. I wish, I was up on Fela years ago so that I had the benefit of his knowledge when I was living in my white oriented matrix. He may have been the one to save me back then.
One of Fela’s songs that I cannot get enough of is “Africa Center of the World”! If you wanna know why, just download it & by the 12th minute of the 17 minute song, you will know why. This song speaks to the core of my being.
So I guess what I am trying to say over all is a) get “Red Hot + Riot: The Music and Spirit of Fela Kuti” b) discover & download anything Fela Kuti, you will not be let down; at least I hope so.
Other recent discoveries from the Black music Diaspora that I’m loving are:
Estelle – “Shine”
Hil St. Soul – “Black Rose” (this joint is hot & needs its own post!)
Zap Mama – “Ancestry in Progress” & “Supermoon”
Darondo – “Let My People Go” (This is a must-mutha-fucking-have; OK!)
Al Green – “Lay It Down” (yes, Al is back!)