Top 10 Fela Kuti Records
Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Oct. 15, 1938 — Aug. 2, 1997) is one of the most important musicians to emerge from Africa in the 20th Century. As the undisputed pioneer of Afrobeat – a fusion of jazz, funk, highlife, and traditional West African musical traditions – Fela was a relentless critic of corruption, the growing Westernization of Nigeria, and cultural imperialism throughout the African continent.
Today, as the Fela legacy lives on through his fans, children, and the countless musicians he’s influenced with his music…we can’t forget the devoted record collectors like Uchenna Ikonne, Frank Gosner, John Beadle, Francis Falceto, and a host of others who travel the world and spend countless dollars / hours searching for the rarest and most exquisite African music known to man.
Here are the Top 10 Fela Kuti LPs of all time - based on their rarity and demand among record collectors.
Some of these records you may have never heard of…but hopefully that changes sometime soon. These are truly gems in a rich treasure trove of music released by Fela. And if you're thirsty for more Fela goodies, check out DJ 4th Wurld's Fela Kuti audio biopic.
1) "Fela Ransome Kuti & African Koola Lobitos"
Label: EMI-Nigeria (1960s)
This is Fela's first-ever recorded LP – and very hard to come by in its original condition.
2) "He Miss Road"
Label: EMI-Nigeria (1975)
“He Miss Road” is an afrobeat masterpiece, in which Fela cautions people of the perils of losing their way, like a gorilla who leaves the jungle for Lagos.
3) "Na Poi"
Label: EMI-Nigeria (1972)
According to the good people at Fela.net, “The ‘Na Poi’ album contains a later version of Fela’s scandalous hit ‘Na Poi’, in which Fela details what happens between a man and a woman behind closed doors. Originally banned by the Nigerian Broadcasting Company for its taboo sexual lyrics, the version on this eponymous album interchanges spoken word and sung lyrics over the Africa 70 horn play, spanning not only the complete a-side of the record, but the first part of the b-side as well – clocking in over 25 minutes. The record finishes with “You No Go Die….Unless”, a hard-hitting funk tune that displays Fela’s bravado as he instructs people not to fear death, because, he explains, they won’t die until they’re ready to die. Again Fela is playing provocateur to the ruling regime, essentially announcing his fearlessness in the face of their brutality.”
4) "Expensive Sh@#t"
Label: Nigerian Soundworkshop Records (1975)
As legend has it, Fela was once arrested by the police on charges of marijuana possession. Before the police could seize the evidence, Fela ate it. So they dragged him to the police station in order to wait for his body to eventually excrete. The tale continues that our hero tricked the police by using someone else’s #2. (Note: this is gross in at least 6 different ways.)
5) "Open and Close"
Label: EMI-Nigeria (1971)
This song is all about the movement - instructing listeners how to dance.
Label: EMI-Nigeria (1974)
In this classic LP, Fela categorically opposes the Westernization of the African man: “I no be gentleman at all o! I be Africa man original.”
7) Sorrow, Tears and Blood
Label: Kalakuta Records (1970s)
Once again, according to the folks at Fela.net, “Fela wrote the title track of this album as a response to the Soweto Uprising of 1976 in which thousands of South African students protested the forced teaching of Afrikaans, the colonial language of Apartheid. During the uprising and the ensuing riots, hundreds of students were killed. The song calls out killings that have gone on in the name of authority and totalitarian rule as well as the instruments of repression of colonial Africa – the police and the army. In this way the song indirectly references the brutality that Fela and his family have experienced in the series of raids on his family compound, the Kalakuta Republic. The musical composition parallels the somber tone of the lyrics; focused and direct, the track avoids the bombastic funk of many of Fela’s compositions.”
8) "Alagbon Close"
Label: Jafabro Records (1974)
Fela recorded this LP to memorialize his time in the Alagbon prision.
As homage to the traditions of African society, Shakara laments the Westernization of African women in their thirst to be equal with men.
10) " Roforofo Fight"
Label: Jafabro Records (1972)
One of the most classic Fela songs of all time, “Go Slow” is about the insane traffic in Lagos, which serves as a metaphor for the insanity that Fela saw in Nigeria:
You dey make your business every day
Then you buy your motor car
Or you join your public transport
Then you start to go for work
Then suddenly, suddenly, suddenly
Lorry dey for your front
Tipa dey for your back
Motorcycle dey for your left o
Taxi-moto dey for your right
Helicopter dey fly fly for your top o
You self don dey for cell
Go slow catch you
Go slow, go slow!
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