Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti

If you like funk or soul, you’ve got to hear this

Undoubtedly a giant in world music, Fela Kuti was one of those artists who was way more than “just” a musician. He was a rebel through and through – a man who both ran for president and was repeatedly beaten by the police in his native Nigeria. He never backed down, forming his own political party and even his own republic, and fought against the corruption in Nigeria even after his mother was thrown from a second floor window of his compound. He died in 1997 from an AIDS related illness.

But we want to hear some music. What is so special musically about Fela is that he invented a new kind of music: afrobeat. Fela got turned on to James Brown and decided to make funk music with African rhythms, but he took it even further by writing 10, 20 or even 40 minute songs that kept to the same groove and, amazingly, never got boring.

He sings/chants/rants mostly in pidgin English, with topics ranging from the super political (Zombie - a metaphor for the police) to proper personal hygiene.

He even goes further than the most misogynistic rapper with songs like Lady and Gentleman, in which he celebrates the inequality of men and women while justifying it in a culture context. Sensitive feminists, get ready to be offended, but sensitive feminist liberals, get ready to be confused, because Fela is as multicultural as you can get.

He put out a lot of music. That said, some of my favorite albums are Before I Jump Like Monkey Give Me Banana (just the name alone says it all) and Zombie. However, as much as I hate to say it, probably the best introduction to Fela is “The Best Best of Fela Kuti.”