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Liner Notes

Fela Kuti: Coffin For Head Of State

Read "Fela Kuti: Coffin For Head Of State" reviewed by Chris May

From the late 1970s onward, Fela's lyrics became longer, more complex and ever more confrontational. Coffin For Head Of State, first released on Kalakuta in 1981, is an outstanding example. It is one of several albums on which Fela responded to the Nigerian army's destruction of his Kalakuta Republic compound on 18 February 1977, and focuses particularly on the outrage's contribution to the subsequent death of his mother. Attacked by an estimated 1,000 soldiers, Kalakuta was burnt ...

Liner Notes

Fela Kuti: Yellow Fever

Read "Fela Kuti: Yellow Fever" reviewed by Chris May

Yellow Fever was originally released in 1976 on Decca's West African imprint, Afrodisia, and both its tracks were hugely controversial in Nigeria. The title track is one of Fela's greatest masterpieces. Sung in Broken English, the language Fela adopted in order to make his words understood beyond Yoruba speakers, the lyrics rail against women's use of skin whitening creams, a fashion which, sadly, still persists today. Side One: “Yellow Fever." Yellow fever was the nickname Lagos residents ...

Liner Notes

Fela Kuti: Army Arrangement

Read "Fela Kuti: Army Arrangement" reviewed by Chris May

Fela only occasionally used outside producers on his albums. Mostly, the results were good: EMI producer Jeff Jarratt's Afrodisiac (EMI, 1973), British dub master Dennis Bovell's Live In Amsterdam (Polygram, 1983) and keyboard player Wally Badarou's exceptional Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense (Philips, 1986). But on one occasion it was spectacularly bad: avant-funk bassist Bill Laswell's insensitive remix and overdubbing of 1985's Army Arrangement (Celluloid), executed in New York while Fela was in jail in Nigeria. It ...

Liner Notes

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Perambulator

Read "Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Perambulator" reviewed by Chris May

Until now one of the lost treasures of Fela's recorded legacy, the history of Perambulator is as arcane as the sleeve credit to Egypt 80 on the Lagos International label's original release is misleading. Far from being recorded by Egypt 80 in 1983, as claimed by Lagos International, both tracks were actually recorded by Afrika 70 in 1977, four years before Egypt 80 existed and with an entirely different lineup aside from baritone saxophonist Lekan Animashaun. The ...

Multiple Reviews

Fela Kuti plus Femi and Made Kuti: Challenging Debilitating Corruption with Dramatic Music

Read "Fela Kuti plus Femi and Made Kuti: Challenging Debilitating Corruption with Dramatic Music" reviewed by Scott Gudell

It's impossible to neatly sum up Fela Kuti's chaotic life, but a record company bio for a disc of the Afrobeat icon tried: “Fela's life as musician, political activist, rebel, and notorious free spirit has made him a larger-than-life icon of world music: the ultimate political artist who has survived beatings, imprisonment, government assaults and more." Describing Fela's live shows, the bio continued, “audiences were mesmerized by the army of musicians, singers and dancers gyrating onstage." It might sound like ...


Fela Kuti: King Grenade

Read "Fela Kuti: King Grenade" reviewed by Mick Raubenheimer

His Dark Majestic. Fela Kuti was born royalty, despite coming from a middle class family. One of those gifted spirits whose very presence teems with potency, Olufela Olusegun Oludan Ransome-Kuti (Fela to his friends and fans) was majestic, arresting the attention or desire of all who encountered him. He was also a rousing rebel, founding his own state in defiance of the militant Nigerian government. Embodied. Born into a middle class, but auspicious family ...

Album Review

Fela Ransome Kuti & His Highlife Rakers: Fela's First

Read "Fela's First" reviewed by Chris May

Lost recordings released for the first time! First, the back story.... In 1958, aged 19, Fela Kuti left the highlife scene in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was on the first steps of a career as a trumpeter, and travelled to London. His mother hoped he would enrol in medical school, as his late father had wished. But Kuti was set on furthering his music studies. Arriving in London, he applied to Trinity College of Music but failed the ...


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