FELA KUTI / “Fela Kuti Black President Mixtape”
Today, brothers and sisters, we are dancing to the music of Fela Kuti. Our text is from the book of opposition (aka The Best Of The Black President), the chapter on thinking for self, verses disc one—4, 5, 6 & 7, and verses disc two—1, 3, 4 & 6. These texts are seldom if ever taught in school precisely because school would have to change if they taught you how change was made and how you can make change. Got it?! Those in charge will tell you that establishing the status quo was a cake walk, all they had to do was utter some magic bullshit and everybody, except for a few militants and terrorists, signed up. But history from only one mouth is always a lie. We need voices, diverse voices, all the voices—especially the voices of those whose tongues were cut out, teeth knocked out their mouths, those who were forced to suck the oppressors dick and swallow. How you think history will sound if those voices are heard? Those howls in the wind are echoes of Fela. Fela Kuti reared to be a good boy, sent to London for a proper education. Become a doctor or lawyer, maybe even a political architect, a head of state or some such. And he did, except Fela literally set up his own republic. The children of the establishment ran off the mental plantations to be part of Fela’s anti-establishment. Fela had to be stopped. The authorities arrested him so many times, Fela had his own booking shelf. They burned up all Fela’s property. Threw Fela’s mother out a window. Fela’s mother had been one of the stalwarts of the anti-colonial struggle and carried forth the torch of freedom on behalf of women. Some even called her the mother of Nigeria. The Nigerian government killed her. Think what you would do if the government killed your mother. And your mother was a national hero. And the fat old boys told you if you didn’t stop doing what you were doing, they would kill you too. And for good measure they had the nasty soldiers rape all the women in your compound. What would you do? Fela held a big funeral for his mother. Paraded through the streets of Lagos to the state house where the big men cowered, sure that Fela’s response would be compliance… wait what was this ruckus? Fela was outside with his mother’s coffin and deposited her physical remains on the front lawn, hence the songs “Coffin For Head Of State” and “ODOO.” Is that what you would do? Fela married all the women who had been dishonored by the weapon of rape, declared them whole heroines worthy of the up-most respect. Those songs are not just songs. They are a major history lesson. What about calling out ITT and their native cronies, the ones who took graft and spread misery? You think you would be naming names or would you be talking bling, bling and boasting about how much pussy you get? Would you shake your fist, or shake your ass? Which one would it be? Before you answer, consider what you do now. Fela made us all uncomfortable; not just those who did wrong but also all of us who put up with wrong for a host of good reasons: kids got to eat; wife/husband is not up for suffering because of some political cock-a-manny bullshit we believe in; the Bible/Koran say don’t; hell, because we want to live: don’t want to be beaten from head to toe, don’t want to spend months, years in jail; want to embrace our grandchildren; don’t want to rock the boat when we got enough of a grip to stay afloat. Not just the unrighteous were upset by Fela. A lot of good people (i.e. silent cowards), a lot of those of us who didn’t believe in the system but who went along in order to keep going on. In other words damn near all of us. All of us withered in the face of Fela’s fierce stare. Bro-tha/Sis-ta what you goin’ to do? Oh, we know what we do/what we did/what many of us always will do: eat shit, suffer, shuffle and smile. Fela, man you a motherfucker! * * * To change the subject while still talking about Fela, I believe beyond the politics, there is an aesthetic that Fela introduced, an aesthetic that continues to grow stronger even after he is gone: AFROBEAT! The man created a whole new song form. And we got to honor that. Today there are Afrobeat orchestras sprouting up all over the world. Growing from the musical seeds of freedom Fela threw down to earth, planted betwixt the cracks and crevices in the concrete jungles of world urban life. Few, if any, other musical aesthetics can be credited to one person and still be growing after that person has transitioned. Fela, Fela, Fela, what a mighty powerful noise he was. In fact, the good news is that Fela’s music is not simply still growing, his recordings are erupting. Check this: not only is there a 2CD&1DVD collection just released called Fela Kuti – The Best Of The Black President – Deluxe Edition (you can get a regular edition without the DVD but why would you not want to get the documentary with concert excerpts and interviews?), not only is there this essential starting point for all of we who are neophytes, but there is also the news that all of Fela’s recordings have been re-mastered and will be re-issued. Some of them will also be on vinyl as well as in digital formats. More of Fela’s music will be available at one time that ever before. Let the congregation say “Ashe.” —Kalamu ya Salaam P.S. Go here and here to read what we previously wrote about Fela and his music. Fela Kuti Black President Mixtape Playlist All tracks are from the new CD&DVD collection, Fela Kuti – The Best Of The Black President – Deluxe Edition. 01 “Sorrow, Tears & Blood” 02 “Zombie” 03 “ITT” 04 “Water No Get Enemy” 05 “Roforofo Fight” 06 “No Agreement” 07 “Coffin For Head Of State” 08 “ODOO”
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