Fela Ransome/Anikulapo Kuti
Kozmigroov Albums
[Check the discography for a complete listing of Fela's albums. It gets kind of unruly to list 'em all here. A-listers? You can't go too wrong with anything he dropped in the 70s.]
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Fela was a great artist....all his records I've heard have long 10-20 minute jams full of all sorts of instrumentation and long loping grooves that really suck you in. And yes, he was a long time opponent of Nigeria's various military governments and was imprisoned many times. My favorite of his records has a cut called something like O.D.O.O. standing for Overtake Done Overtake Overtake, a kind of expose of political cynicism and hypocrisy in Nigeria (is the lyric where Fela suggests the name of the Nigerian government should be changed to "Soldier Come, Soldier Go" from that song or another?), which is about as deep groovy as you can get. He also recorded a couple times with Roy Ayers. [ISH]

As for Fela, there's a lot of stuff floating around in different conglomerations. I'm not sure how many different records of his anyone actually "needs", as many of them kinda blur together (I've been listening to a stack of real early stuff lately, and while I enjoy them all the only one I really can remember afterwards is this late-60s JB/ funk thing recorded in the US). Best bet is to look for CDs containing the mid-late 70s recordings like Zombie and Shuffering and Shmiling (I think there's a Shanachie CD that'll set you up) -- never did he have a better band, and rarely did he reach these heights of polyrythmic hypnosis, taking elements of US jazz and funk back across the Atlantic and combining them with motivations common to all kinds of African musics (i.e. the beautiful conflation of melody and rhythm and texture). There's also a sense of drama and dynamics to this period that isn't nearly as pronounced in the earlier endless jazzy vamps or the later slicker international stuff. I was sad when I found out he'd passed, he was a remarkable figure. R.I.P. [KM]

Barclay's two-in-one CD reissue of Expensive Shit + He Miss Road is a ridiculously potent combination. ES is one of Fela's finest moments, with the stanky title cut (both figuratively and literally-- the chorus repeats "Because why o? Because the shit de smell") b/w the jazzfunk monster "Water No Get Enemy." The cover shot is great, with Fela and his wives raising their fists in proud resistance behind lines of barbed wire. Oh yeah, the complete title of this album is "The men in uniform alleged i swallowed some quantity of hemp. my shit was send for lab test. result-negative. which brings us to ... EXPENSIVE SHIT." Can't argue with that. He Miss Road has Fela's most (near-)psychedelic moments, conjured by the organ stylings on the title cut and the 17+ minute jam "It's No Possible." Over an unstoppable rhythm, these jab and drone and resonate into every corner of the skull to brilliant effect. Oh yeah, the breakdown and buildup commencing three minutes into "It's No Possible" is also kinda sublime. I grabbed both Fela vinyl boxes on Barclay, which may have soaked up my disposable income for much longer than comfortable but they're worth the scratch. And jeez, those postcards of Fela's wives (?) are just glorious-- makes me realize the sad monochromatic world in which I live. Think I'll go buy some paint. [DW]


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