Friday, August 03, 2007

Kalakuta Show

Much more important than a change of government: Fela Kuti's legacy. "My name is Anikulapko. I have death in my pouch. They can't kill me."

What a life story too: he declared his home to be an independent republic, ignited protests across western Africa, became the unofficial leader of his country's opposition (and suffered a brutal retaliation from the authorities), married 27 women in one go – and he founded his own musical genre: Afrobeat.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the great man's death – it's worth remembering that it was from Aids, something too many of his African admirers don't want to accept – the Beeb has a look at how his lyrics are still relevant to Nigeria's problems (down even to the families involved: Obasanjo and Yar'Adua).

Of course, it's really just a chance to remind ourselves of Fela's fantastic musical and cultural legacy because an article restricting pointing out that Nigeria has problems with corruption, undemocratic practices, exploitation, poverty and religious division would be an exercise is stating the bleeding obvious. Although this is a good example of how an artist can be the most astute and articulate voice pointing out these facts.

However, if I'd been writing the BBC piece, the song I'd have chosen to demonstrate the malign influence of religious conflict on Nigeria wouldn't have been Coffin for Head of State, which is more about religious hypocrisy. It would have been Shuffering and Shmiling: a song which has almost everything: mesmeric grooves, explosive lyrics, incisive commentary on religion and one section of scat in Yoruba (I've no idea what he's saying, but I like the sound of it).

And if you doubt my word about what a fantastic musician and performer he was there's always YouTube to set you right.

Finally, my favourite Fela story, from here: "I asked him which musician he most respected. The answer was unexpected. 'Handel. George Frederick Handel.' I told him my father was a Handel freak and we discussed, amid the dope smoke, Dixit Dominus and the Concerto Grossi."

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1 Comments:

Blogger Quink said...

Excellent. I didn't know about the Handel story.

Glenn Gould always used to claim that his favourite composer was Orlando Gibbons, which I suspect was a wind up. That said, he played Gibbons astoundingly well.

7:42 pm  

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