Feb 1, 2010

Black Man's Cry: The Inspiration Of Fela Kuti



Reviews

Covers and music inspired by the Godfather of Afro-Beat. This Fela Estate-approved anthology includes rare and previously unreleased music from Nigeria, Ghana, Colombia, Trinidad and more.

He’s best known by his first name, Fela. He’s certainly Nigeria’s most famous musical export. His name itself conjures images of 70s Lagos: a metropolis awash in the jubilation that swept in after the 1970 armistice in the civil war between the Nigerian Army and Eastern Biafran secessionists, a capital city in the midst of transition. This is the environment in which Fela and his Africa 70 popularized the hybrid of highlife, jazz and James Brown style, big-band funk he invented: Afro-Beat.

In Nigeria, his countrymen knew his music like Americans know Elvis. On foreign shores, a chosen few Westerners could claim to know the extent of Fela’s genius. As a result, while music historians have filled books with references to the influence of Westerners on Fela’s creation, little has been said about Fela’s inspiration on others. Thus, our compilation begins.

Fela’s music, and that of his organization inspired musicians across the global village when Afro-Beat was new and novel. This compilation focuses on the music Fela inspired – whether by fellow Nigerians recording alongside him in the early 70s, neighbors in Ghana, then-modern Colombian cumbia ensembles inspired by the man who injected a new feel into the Yoruban rhythms that formed cumbia’s base, Trinidadian steel bands or the select few organizations left that have maintained Fela’s fury in the new millennium.

This is but a cursory investigation into those inspired by Fela Kuti’s genius, but it is unique: the first time that many of these tracks are not only offered a second chance for worthy introspection, but, in the case of many, the first time they’re being issued full stop.

Compiler Egon has written extensive liner notes – and sourced never before seen Fela photos and other ephemera - for this project, included in the hardbound book that contains the CD and in a large-format booklet in the 4 x 10” vinyl box set.

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Fela Kuti died of AIDS in 1997. Before that he was Nigeria’s most famous musician, pioneering Afro-beat — a combination of jazz, funk and the long-popular African genre highlife. He became closely associated with left-wing causes later in life, and has captivated popular rock and rap artists as diverse as Ginger Baker and Pete Rock. Black Man’s Cry: The Inspiration of Fela Kuti is a new compilation featuring artists who both inspired, and were inspired by, Kuti. Endorsed by his estate, it’s an unusual and highly rewarding compilation that showcases the Afro-beat evolution. Contemporaries such as Segun Bucknor and Dan Satch & His Atomic 8 Dance Band are included along with ’90s tracks from such acts as Daktaris, and Karl Hector and the Malcouns. Lever Brothers Gay Flamingoes’ long medley is the album’s centerpiece and highlight, but the whole work serves as a rollicking history in song.
(Now-Again) 4 stars out of 5

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Tracklist

01. Cumbia Moderna De Soledad - Shacalao 3:42
02. Dan Satch and his Atomic 8 Dance Band - Woman Pin Down 2:52
03. 6th Infantry Brigade of the Nigerian Army - Black And Proud 3:33
04. Bola Johnson - Hot Pants 2:52
05. Segun Bucknor - Adebo 5:52
06. Bola Johnson - Never Trust A Woman 5:13
07. Jerry Hansen - Sisi Mi 5:31
08. The Daktaris - Up Side Down 4:14
09. Phirpo Y Sus Caribes - Comencemos 2:11
10. Lever Brothers Gay Flamingoes - Egbi Mi O / Black Man's Cry (Medley) 9:53
11. Mosco Tiles Fonclaire Steel Orchestra - Black Man's Cry 4.28
12. Sylvania East Side Symphony - Egbi Mi O / Black Man's Cry (Medley) 2:58
13. Lisandro Meza - Shacalao 3:43
14. Karl Hector and The Malcouns - Toure Samar 3:17
15. The Whitefield Brothers - Lullaby For Lagos 2:39

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