Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Fela Kuti

Listening to Fela Kuti’s 1974 album Confusion, essentially one monster 26min track spread over two sides of vinyl… One of my most prized boxsets is Knitting Factory’s Complete Works Of Fela Anikulapo Kuti – not quite the complete works, but near enough, the 26 CDs feature 46 albums encompassing the bulk of Fela's music released from 1965 to 1992, an extraordinary blend of African Highlife, Jazz, James Brown funk and drummer Tony Allen’s propulsive rhythms, As well as the music I love the album covers (reproduced on card sleeves in the boxset) which range from DIY cut and paste photo-montages to vibrant, cartoon artwork illustrated by Lemi Ghariokwu, and usually layered with satirical jibes at Nigerian life and anti-Government sentiment. The sleeve for the Beasts Of No Nation album recorded in 1989 after Fela served an 18 month jail sentence (on a trumped up charge so the story goes) features rat-faced United Nations delegates, protesters brandishing placards reading “Human Rights is Our Property”, and Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and then South Africa Prime Minister P.W. Botha equipped with devil horns and vampire fangs. On the right hand side of the sleeve, Fela can be seen standing outside an open jail cell giving a triumphant black power salute... I’d love to own these on vinyl !

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