Seattle-based mixologist dj100proof has whipped up what is quite a bit of audio magic, mashing the Afrobeat instrumental from Fela Kuti’s Colonial Mentality with the (slowed down) vocals of Pharrell Williams’ winner, Happy. Colour me ecstatic.
M.anifest’s yet-to-be-released EP, Apae: The Price of Free, is clearly shaping up to be a surefire hit. Following up on July’s fantastic Ebei: Dream Killers, the latest single from the Ghanaian spitter’s upcoming hip hop project is the jazz-infused Someway Bi — a perhaps unintended homage to Fela Kuti’s legendary Afrobeat genre. Delivered in his all-too-familiar (but not at all mind-numbing) laidback style, the Accra native’s signature whip-smart quips are as sharp as ever on this feel-good Yung Fly production. Replay, maybe?
Around noon on Friday, February 18, 1977, about a thousand heavily armed government troops stormed the Kalakuta Republic, Afrobeat pioneer and outspoken human rights activist Fela Kuti’s residence at 14, Agege Motor Road, Idi-Oro, Mushin, Lagos.
After a fifteen-hour siege in which mortars were presumably fired, the building was in flames, women had been raped and Fela’s mother, women’s rights activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was badly injured after being thrown out a second-floor window along with her son. Mrs. Ransome-Kuti later lapsed into a coma in which she remained till her death on April 13, 1978.
Since rebuilt, the Kalakuta Republic was converted to a museum by the government of Lagos in 2012. Head below to see pre-1977 photos (courtesy of The Nigerian Nostalgia Project) of Fela, his wives and dancers as well as a clip from Music Is My Weapon, the 1982 documentary on the legend. Also, stream Zombie, the anti-government song released shortly before the irate Olusegun Obasanjo-led military regime ordered the vicious attack on Kalakuta.
Fela Kuti was a one-man revolution, the irreverent antithesis of the corruption that was fast gaining ground in Nigerian government during his time. He wasn’t the best vocalist, true, but Fela’s powerful, irrepressible lyrics as well as his intelligent fusion of jazz and tribal sounds into the universally acclaimed genre known as Afrobeat remain untouchable twenty-six years after his passing.
High definition footage of Fela’s impassioned live performances are not anywhere online, but here’s the next best thing: a clear 18-minute video shot at the 1978 Berlin Jazz Festival. This performance of the bitingly critical song, Power Show captures the essence of Fela, his music and his purpose.
Some have said that Burna Boy is overrated, and that he’s just another passing fad. Well, everyone has a right to their own opinions, and that’s precisely why I am writing this. From my perspective, Burna Boy is the definition of dopeness, a personification of the blast of creative originality that Nigerian music needs if it must become relevant on a global scale. He is as unlike his more street-savvy contemporary, the jumpy Dammy Krane, as daylight is different from darkness. Solid audible proof to give credence to that line of thought is the recently released single, ‘Run My Race’ from his upcoming Aristokrat Records debut, ‘L.I.F.E.’.
On ‘Run My Race’, Burna Boy carries over what is fast becoming his signature style – a fusion of pidgin, Yoruba and English delivered in a deliberately tremulous voice – from his previous hits ‘Like To Party’ and ‘Tonight’. Laid over synths and Afrobeats drum work, Burna Boy’s vocals come off as a musically-correct version of the ‘iconic’ D’banj flow. Adding more to the eclecticism of ‘Run My Race’, Burna includes a well-executed chant and ad libs in the unmistakable style of Fela Kuti, a respectful nod to the legend who, walking around in briefs and a cloud of marijuana smoke, did more for his country than its horde of robe-wearing, butt-kissing politicians, and whose work has influenced Burna’s music in no small measure.
The bottomline? Burna Boy is cocksure of what he’s doing. For a song whose lyrics are over-the-top playful and sometimes cringeworthy: “…when I dey hustle, you dey lick lollipop/ Now you dey form Robocop…”, ‘Run My Race’ is an unapologetic showcase of Burna’s burgeoning musicianship, vocal consistency and plain old common sense – a skill set which some artistes who have been around for much longer than he has may never acquire throughout their colourless careers.
When is that album hitting the streets again, Burna? Nothing but love.