In 2009 and 2010 Knitting Factory Records reissued the complete works of Nigerian icon and Afrobeat originator Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Almost 50 original albums were released over 26 individual CDs, all re-packaged, with in-depth track commentaries written by Afrobeat historian Chris May, as well as the compilations ‘The Best Of The Black President’ (part 1 + 2) and the deluxe CD box set ‘The Complete Works’. Vinyl reissues, including box sets curated by Brian Eno, Questlove, and Ginger Baker followed.
Now, in response to popular demand, six more of Fela’s most important albums – Fear Not For Man (1977), Beasts Of No Nation (1989), Everything Scatter (1975), Roforofo Fight (1972), Alagbon Close (1974) and Na Poi (1976) – will be reissued by Knitting Factory Records on 16 October 2015, in their original form on vinyl. Most of these will be the first time they are released as individual vinyl albums since their original vinyl release in Nigeria in the 70s and 80s – something which will not only delight audiophile Fela fans, but also the admirers of Lemi Ghariokwu’s iconic artwork, now again at 12 x 12 inches as it was intended.
And the Fela story continues unabated. Last month the new, all-singing, all-dancing Fela website at http://fela.net/ was launched. The website is a homage to Fela, telling his story through the eyes of those who knew and loved him, from near and far, featuring anecdotes, blogs, features, photographs, videos, and his powerful, ever-present and effervescent music. It also includes the official Fela webstore, offering a wide range of Fela memorabilia.
Felabration, the annual week-long festival of music and arts commemorating the life and times of the late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, is due to take place all around the world in October to honor Fela in the month of his birth (born October 15, 1938). The original Felabrations date back to the early 1970’s when Fela and his band took over The Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria and performed until the sun came up. This year’s Felabration festivities take place throughout October and will include events all over the world in Lagos, London, New York and beyond.
London will celebrate with the inimitable 16-piece Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra and a host of very special guests. The event takes place on Friday, October 16, in the magnificent atrium of the British Library and will coincide with the launch of ‘West Africa – Word, Symbol, Song’, a major exhibition tracing the written and oral history of West Africa for the past three centuries.
Roforofo Fight (Fela Kuti & Africa 70) – Original year of release: 1972
Roforofo Fight makes brilliant use of Broken English: authentic and of the people and given a poetic mojo by Fela. Fela’s love of metaphor is evident, too, on “Roforofo Fight.” The lyric describes a fight that breaks out in a Lagos street, and Fela uses it to depict intolerant, violent human behavior in general. “Go Slow” uses the traffic jams clogging up Lagos’s road system as a metaphor for political and social breakdown.
Side A/ Track 1: Roforofo Fight
Side B/ Track 2: Go Slow
Alagbon Close (Fela Kuti) – Original year of release: 1974
Alagbon Close marks the first full flowering of Afrobeat, as a music and as a principled political philosophy. Instrumentally, the album brings together the several signature elements of Fela’s Afrobeat, which had not previously been moulded into such a unified, finely-balanced form on record. Lyrically, it is a full-on confrontation with an enforcing power of the Nigerian state: Alagbon Close in Lagos was the headquarters of the Nigerian Criminal Investigation Department.
Side A/ Track 1: Alagbon Close
Side B/ Track 2: I No Get Eye For Back
Everything Scatter (Fela Kuti & Africa 70) – Original year of release: 1975
The lyric of “Everything Scatter” portrays Nigeria’s conflicted society through metaphor and microcosm: an argument supposedly taking place among the passengers on a bus passing Kalakuta. One of the passengers levels the usual establishment accusations against Fela – that he and his followers are weed smokers, political troublemakers, hooligans and prostitutes (the first two charges, of course, being true). Another passenger defends Fela – better to be a weed smoker than a drunk, better to be a political “troublemaker” than a sell-out. Pandemonium ensues and the driver takes the bus to a police station. “Uniform start to yab,” sings Fela, “bring me the Fela people, make I lock am (and) charge am for court, before I shut am big mouth for am, before I hand am to mosquito.” Fela’s use of “mosquito” refers to the fact that Nigerian prisons were sometimes deliberately sited near malarial swamps.
Side A/ Track 1: Everything Scatter
Side B/ Track 2: Who No Know go Know
Na Poi (Fela Kuti & Africa 70) – Original year of release: 1976
The song “Na Poi” was banned by the Nigerian Broadcasting Company when it was first released, generating vast publicity and practically guaranteeing a hit. The expression “Na Poi” literally means “things will collide,” and in the lyric Fela describes what men and women get up to in bed together in graphic detail. “You No Go Die…Unless,” with its urgent, edgy beat, is as much James Brown-derived funk as it is Afrobeat, and is reminiscent of Fela’s 1969 recordings with Koola Lobitos in Los Angeles.
Side A/ Track 1: Na Poi (Part 1)
Side B/ Track 2: Na Poi (Part 2)
Side B/ Track 3: You No Go Die … Unless
Fear Not For Man (Fela Kuti & Africa 70) – Original year of release: 1977
The title track of
Fear Not For Man sounds like a work in progress interrupted by the 1977 attack of his Kalakuta Republic compound by 1,000 soldiers. “Palm Wine Sound” is an attractive, highlife-tinged instrumental, with the American jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie guesting with the horn section, whilst Afrika 70’s regular trumpeter, Tunde Williams, takes the solo.
Side A/ Track 1: Fear Not For Man
Side B/ Track 2: Palm Wine Sound (Instrumental)
Beasts of No Nation (Fela Kuti & Egypt 80) – Original year of release: 1989
Beasts of No Nation was an indictment of the corruption and repression in post-colonial Africa. The album, whose single track took up both sides of the vinyl LP, addressed a variety of targets, each of them, said Fela, guilty of enslaving Africans: the Nigerian regime, the South African apartheid regime of P.W. Botha, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, America’s Ronald Reagan, and the ineffectual United Nations. In addition to being vilified in the lyrics, Botha, Thatcher and Reagan are among the political leaders portrayed as beasts and devils on the front sleeve which was created by Ghariokwu Lemi.
Side A/ Track 1: Beasts of No Nation (Instrumental)
Side B/ Track 2: Beasts of No Nation (Vocal)
Fela was a man of his words, a man without fear,a man who fought for the rights of his fellow citizens and he did all that by doing what he knows how to do best singing.His music is one of those things that makes me understand how Bad the Nigerian government was and still is.Infarct they are getting worst as the day runs by. So the beast of no nation was a perfect tittle for the Nigerian political setting.The way he described prison as the inside world and outside prison the outside world, he is the best as a nationalist. How i wish the citizens of Nigeria could have this kind of mind .