Sep 24, 2010

Australian Afrobeat (Pt.IV): Big Fela


BIG FELA have been pumping out the afrobeat hits of Fela Kuti, plus their own choice cuts in the style, since 2004. Led by Phil Bywater's fiery saxophone and vocals, the lineup includes past and present members of Bomba, Labjacd, The Royal Swazi Spa, Oxo Cubans and Des Peres. We have been fortunate to collaborate with many of Australia's finest African musicians,including King Marong (St Kilda Global Garden Festival), Kojo Awusu, Joe Malatji and Lamine Sonko, and to perform at festivals from St Kilda to Mornington, Federation Square to Fitzroy!

BIG FELA: led by Phil Bywater and comprising Australia's finest horn section, this group plays the most authentic afro beat sound you will hear in this country

Fela Kuti comes alive in this stellar band featuring some of Melbourne's most exciting world music players


... unfortunately not much information can be found about them, therefore, maybe if interested just check out here to listen to some songs or here!

If anyone can provide more information please contact me!

Femi Kuti - New album???

Article by A.D. Amorosi For The Inquirer, July 2010

Femi Kuti at Theatre of Living Arts

Olufela Olufemi Anikulapo (Femi) Kuti is his father's son. When you speak to Femi Kuti, his quiet reverence for the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti pours forth. Yet the 48-year-old is his own man. Since 1995 he has been releasing albums - 2001's hip-hop-inspired Fight to Win, and 2008's jazz-infused Day by Day, to name two - that start from a hypnotic funk base and embrace an increasing diversity of music. On Day by Day, Femi Kuti sings about a global peace and calls on Western countries to take responsibility for what they've stolen from his African homeland. Asked if his words are being heeded, and what impact his songs have had throughout the world, he seems positive that America in particular has been listening. "Your troubles with oil in the Gulf Coast, to say nothing of your financial woes - these are things that Africa has long known," he says.

The composer/multi-instrumentalist is not gloating. He's drawing universal parallels. Like his father, Femi Kuti creates palatably politicized messages of survival and truth that never shirk the responsibility of being frank. The songs aren't always about life-and-death issues, either. "It is often hard for people to comprehend," he says, "not just the message but the music." A song such as "Do You Know" helps the listener comprehend both, as Femi talks up the necessary history of jazz song.

"There are so many great composers and improvisers that young people don't know because the educational system in Africa doesn't give them direction," Femi Kuti says. "How do you expect young people to know Coltrane and Charlie Parker if you don't teach them? How can they appreciate their own art and their own lives if they don't learn?"

America is getting to learn more about his music and that of his late father from the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit Fela! Of the show, he says: "No, I haven't seen it though I think it's a brilliant idea. It's great that Americans have come to appreciate him thusly. But it needs to be shown at the Shrine," the club his father owned, now run by Femi. "It needs to be shown in Lagos."

Along with working to bring Fela! to the Shrine, Kuti is also readying release of a new album, Africa for Africa. Its title track is currently in release as a single. "It's about Africa caring for Africa, looking after its own," he says. "We can't and shouldn't wait for America or any other country to care for us. We need to tend to our own country - good roads, good medicine, good schools. We need to care."


Cochemea Gastelum - The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow


Cochemea Gastelum is one of New York City's most in-demand horn players, a touring member of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and saxophonist in the original band for the Broadway musical, Fela.

Now, at long last, this key figure in New York City's underground funk and soul worlds drops his highly anticipated debut album, The Electric Sound Of Johnny Arrow. Produced by Adam Dorn (a.k.a. Mocean Worker), the ten-track collection is guaranteed to be some of the greasiest music to hit the streets this summer: full of concise songs that leap forth with the energy and focus of his influences, while pulling the thread forward from the inspiration of '70s' rare groove to create razor sharp, modern instrumental tracks.



Its title giving a nod to his Native American roots, The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow is the debut album from Brooklyn-based saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum. A touring member of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, and a recurring saxophonist in the original band for the Broadway musical Fela!, Gastelum here pays tribute to some of his soul and Afrobeat heroes—including Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 baritone player Lekan Animashaun and tenor players Igo Chiko and Christopher Uwaifor, and—above all—electric saxophonist Eddie Harris, an early master of jazz/r&b/soul groove music. Other explicit influences include War and Ethiopian composer/bandleader Mulatu Astatqe. The 10 track album—on which each track comes in, retro style, at about three and half minutes—is one mighty chunk of fun.

On the opener, "Dark City," Gastelum pays his propers to Kuti and Astatqe, both of whom are echoed in the majestic, long-form horn lines which carry the tune. He overdubs tenor and baritone, not to mention flute, organ and percussion, and delivers a steaming solo on the bigger horn. From here on in, the music is more resonant of War, in its throbbing, percussion-rich grooves, and Harris' electric saxophone, which Gastelum plays on six tracks. Tempos are mostly up and solos are mostly hot, but Gastelum also adds cool-breeze flute to a few tunes and there are two dreamy, soulful ballads, "You're So Good To Me" and "No Goodbyes." All the compositions are Gastelum originals or collaborations.

Gastelum could probably have played all the instruments heard here if he chose to—in addition to the aforementioned he also plays Fender Rhodes, clavinet, ARP String Ensemble, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, vibraphone and piano—but he's surrounded himself with a bunch of ace groove adepts including trumpeter Eric Biondo and a rolling cast of guitarists, bass players, percussionists and drummers (including, on "Fathom 5," Joe Russo). His own gutsy bass clarinet puts a nice spin on "Fathom 5," which is otherwise redolent of chill-out scene music from 1970s blaxploitation movies. And still the tributes come. "Impala '73" is heavy boogaloo and "Beijo Do Sol" evokes Hawaiian-tinged exotica.

The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow benefits from the presence of Adam Dorn (aka Mocean Worker) as producer, who has welded the episodic nature of the program and its diverse cultural references into a seamless whole. Irresistible.

Thanx to Chris May at!


Cochemea Gastelum's saxophone has been heard with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, though he has also played in the Broadway musical Fela! and with a diverse group that includes Paul Simon, Amy Winehouse and the New Pornographers. His debut as a leader focuses almost exclusively on creating a party vibe, in particular a vibe that travels back to the early '70s when the soul-jazz grooves were heavy, horn solos were brief but concise and the music focused on the dancefloor. With musician and mix master Adam "Mocean Worker" Dorn co-producing and occasional handling bass duties, The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow has a lot of muscle adding to its heaviness.

The "electric sound" of the title is represented in the use of the electric saxophone, which Eddie Harris made popular during the decade mentioned above. On five of the 10 tracks, Gastelum whips it out, using the horn's distorted tone and wah-wah effect not as novelty so much as a way to grab your ear and add to the already diverse mix of sounds. In addition to regular alto, tenor and baritone saxes, Gastelum also handles a battery of keyboards (organ, Fender Rhodes, ARP, clavinet), flute, bass clarinet and percussion throughout the album. The mood of the songs encompasses everything from slinky ballads and Headhunters-style vamps to melodies that touch on the Fela influence or, to dig deeper, the spirit of Osibisa. Most of the time, the horns work together in unison for texture, but Gastelum cuts loose with a sizeable solo here and there.

The only setback of Johnny Arrow, aside from the annoying vocal loop on "Carlito," is that the music doesn't sound live. Each track boasts at least three people, usually more, playing the music, yet a lot of it sounds like it was built around samples.

In trying describe what gives music a '70s-centric feeling, it could be said that this period combined the unadorned sound of a band playing live in a room with burgeoning recording technology that had not yet risen to a level where it could sanitize the soul of the music. (The latter problem reached full bloom about a decade later.) Instead of going ahead and trying to capture that feeling directly, Johnny Arrow falters because it sounds like Gastelum and Dorn filter it through a self-conscious "retro" perspective, and doesn't let the band breathe as much as it should. Nevertheless, there are some great horn shouts and funky grooves lurking in these mixes.



The big-toned but supple saxophone of Cochemea Gastelum has been a crucial element in the Afrobeat and funk excursions of the Budos Band and the retro-soul of the Dap-Kings. Now‚ with his first solo album‚ The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow‚ Gastelum blends those flavors -- and many more -- into an imaginative and appealing amalgam of groove‚ mood‚ and texture.

There's no doubt that main ingredients and spices redolent of groove music from the past -- the electrified soul-jazz of the 70s in particular --are in plentiful supply. The streetwise funk of 70s cop and spy movie soundtracks is evident too‚ as the record's title might hint. But there's also a personal depth to Gastelum's sonic vision: at times he seems to have layered his compositions and arrangements in a way that's reminiscent of Les McCann's work on albums like‚ well‚ Layers. The effect is engaging and evocative‚ with Rhodes and percussion colors‚ flute‚ vibes‚ section and solo horns (the horns at times electrified ala vintage Eddie Harris) all coming together in surprising and satisfying ways.

Co-producer Mocean Worker has brought his touch of DJ in places--most noticeably perhaps on "Carlito!‚" with its stripped-down dance music gestalt‚ its sampled vocal hook. But the strongest tracks are the ones that let Gastelum's imagination loose. For example‚ there's "Impala 73‚" a charanga-style flute workout over a summer-vibed‚ sideways bugalu. Or "Stars‚" with its ambient drifts‚ dreamy bell-toned triplets‚ languid Drifters-esque string ensemble‚ and wide-open and expressive sax all mingling and coalescing gorgeously into something like intergalactic smooth jazz from the future.

Indeed‚ it's the mingling and coalescing in ebullient --and fun-- ways that gives the record such a sense of lift. In its best moments The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow might summon the feeling of summer in a windows-and-doors-open urban neighborhood where groove-centric musicians from many places‚ spaces‚ times‚ and traditions come together to jam and party‚ finding new ways to share what they've got.



As a child, I grew up with a special fondness for the old Motown Records and soul music sound – there was nothing more perfect in life that to hear the harmonies of the Temptations, the love songs of Marvin Gaye, the infectious pop songs of the Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Jackie Wilson, the amazing Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and so many countless others that I could go on for days. Those great old records not only capture their time period but there’s something universal in their infectious joy. Now, the Brooklyn-based Daptone Records first developed a reputation across town, then across the country for their loving recreation of the old soul and funk records of the late 1950s through the 1960s through acts such as the Budos Band and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, as well as a ton of reissues. Instead of super slick digital reproduction that modern ears are used to, you get that slight graininess and fuzz of analog recording processes – it’s much like listening to carefully used vinyl. And the art work is just pitch perfect recreations of things music fans would have come across then. Sure, a cynic may say that Daptone Records may pay attention to these little details to be kitschy but I think it works because a certain level of nostalgia for what’s no longer is necessary to get why they go about what they do. (For a great example, check out Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 100 Days and 100 Nights. There’s a special “Best of Daptone Records” disc that’s pretty funny in how accurate it is to those old AM radio shows.)

But Daptone Records also has developed a reputation for exposing New York and American audiences to some serious Afrobeat with their reissues of some of the genre’s great but sadly obscure artists who released albums in the early 1970s, as well as Anitbalas, who have gained increasing fame and notoriety as the backing band for the biographical Broadway show, Fela! Interestingly, this has brought Fela Kuti’s sometime bizarre life story and amazing music to mainstream America in ways that Kuti would have never dreamed possible. Now here comes Cochemea Gastelum, the saxophonist in Sharon Jones’ backing band, the Dap Kings with a solo debut that continues Daptone Records’ amazing run of producing and nourishing some artists that do retro music proud while adding their unique spin to it – all while being a bit of a departure from the signature Dap Kings sound he’s been behind for a number of years.

Unlike his Dap Kings work Gastelum’s Johnny Arrow is heavily influenced by Afrobeat, 70s soul, Latin Rock and jazz and from an initial listen, this album could have easily been released in the summer of 1974, as much as it could be released now. Some critics and listeners will probably say that this album reminds them of great Afrobeat albums such as Fela Kuti and the Africa 70’s Expensive Shit/He Miss Road and Open and Close/Afrodisiac, as Johnny Arrow is at times as funky as both of those albums. The horn section in “Dark City,” reminded me of the cool, brooding and slowed down funk of “Water Get No Enemy.” But such comparisons will only miss out on how strong Gastelum’s Latin Rock and Latin Jazz influences are throughout the album – songs like “Carlito!” and “You’re So Good to Me” reminded me of the great but now sadly obscure 70s Latin/Funk/Rock band Mandrill (a band I’ve fallen in love with recently – and a band that I think everyone needs to check out if they’re into 70s soul). These songs have a ton of flute floating and dancing about as a lead instrument, funky bass, and break beat-styled drumming. It feels a bit unfair in my mind to compare Gastelum’s album to Mandrill’s work – but what I will say is that both Gastelum and Mandrill seem at ease jumping back and forth between soul, funk, African and Latin-influenced jazz and mashing them up in ways that are smooth, sexy and downright funky. Granted, the one big time knock on this album is that what Gastelum is attempting on this album isn’t exactly original – and if you’re familiar and know Gastelum’s influences, you may stick to your Fela, War or Mandrill albums. But regardless of that, what this whole retro music trend does is bring great obscure songs and artists new life and a new audience who may be curious to give them a chance, when time all but forgot. So check out The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow and while you’re it, check out Mandrill and Fela – they’ll all fill your summer with some ass-shaking funk.




1. Dark City
2. Arrow's Theme
3. Carlito
4. You're So Good To Me
5. Guardian Angel
6. Impala '73
7. Fathom 5
8. No Goodbyes
9. Beijo Do Sol
10. Stars

Sep 22, 2010

William Onyeabor - Atomic Bomb


William Onyeabor is a funk musician from Nigeria. His songs are often heavily rhythmic and synthesized, occasionally epic in scope, with lyrics decrying war sung by both Onyeabor himself and female backing vocalists. In recent years a number of his songs have appeared on various compilations, most often his biggest hit "Better Change Your Mind" which appeared on World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love's a Real Thing - The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa and Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970's Funky Lagos.



Over the weekend I was introduced to William Onyeabor's addictive blend of Nigerian electronic funk music and now I really HAVE to hear every single song he's ever written. Amazing stuff!

His music comprises of heavy afro beats and crazy soulful synth sounds from the heady days of a 70's Nigerian funk scene that until Saturday, I never knew existed. Some of the electronic sounds leave you doubting his songs were recorded in the late 70's/early 80's, but they really were and pretty much no one anywhere else in the world was making music like this back then.

From a quick glance around the internet I can see his music has a similar positive effect on a lot of people and finding copies of his recordings is akin to rare stamp collecting- albums sell for hundreds of dollars on ebay. Maybe it's time for a re-release?

Information about William Onyeabor is equally as rare to track down, Wikipedia had a little:

"William Onyeabor studied cinematography in Russia for many years, returning to Nigeria in the mid-70s to start his own Wilfilms music label and to set up a music and film production studio. He recorded a number of hit songs in Nigeria during the 70s, the biggest of which was “Atomic Bomb” in 1978. William has now been crowned a High Chief in Enugu, where he lives today as a successful businessman working on government contracts and running his own flour mill."



A1 Beautiful Baby
A2 Better Change Your Mind
B1 Atomic Bomb
B2 Shame
B3 I Need You All Life

Interview with Martin Perna from Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra (June 2004)

The interview is published by, Interview by Vinnie Baggadonuts


Where are you guys based?

Milwaukee, so I’m pretty excited to see you guys in a few weeks.

Did you see us last time we came through? Is that how you found out about us?

No. I was out of town, unfortunately. I’ve actually known about you guys since Liberation Afrobeat, Vol. 1.

Oh, cool. Wow.

But I've never seen you guys.

The shows in Milwaukee have always been really off the hook. I think we’ve been there twice. We did three shows. The second time we were there, we played twice.

What is it, man? Do you guys put something in the water when you come here?

(laughs) I don’t know.

I read that you came up with the idea of Antibalas in a Mexico City hotel room.

(laughs) Yeah. Everyone asks me about that. I actually have family there, but I normally don’t stay with them because they’re afraid for me to walk around there. (laughs) I was on tour there with another group, and I wasn’t really happy playing there. My roommate at the time, our [Antibalas'] trombone player, we were listening to some Eddie Palmieri. I don’t know if you know much about him.


Eddie Palmieri is a visionary salsa pianist and Latin jazz pianist. He put together this group in the mid-Seventies called Harlem River Drive. They played really hard funk and salsa. And I wanted to create something like that. Not to recreate Harlem River Drive, but to play some Latin music and funk; and I was really into Afrobeat.


So, it was sort of that initial thing, thinking something really vague, that I knew could bring different audiences together.

Was the political message aspect of the music a part of that initial vision?

Yeah, always. The idea of politics or political struggle is part of Afrobeat music. I don’t think the two could ever really be separated.

And did you ever imagine Antibalas would be as large in number as it is?

You know, I always wanted it to be as big as it needed to be. If the music dictated that we needed six members, then we would get six members. But with Afrobeat, you can always add more. At one point during his Egypt 80 days, Fela [Kuti] had something like 20 musicians, not counting all his singers. He had a ton of horns, two bass players, and even two drummers, at times. Ultimately, it’s however many people can be down and dedicated and focused at the time.

Is that the hardest part? To find people who are more interested in playing for the cause, than to be millionaires in music?

In the beginning it was hard, because the concept of it was so new. It seemed so abstract and daunting. Even for my friends who play music and had some familiarity with Afrobeat. There was a handful of people down from the very beginning who, with me, pushed forward. We definitely looked for people who were into Afrobeat. And there were some great guitar players who came through. But, the thing is, to play Afrobeat guitar, you don’t need to be a virtuoso in the American sense of the guitar virtuoso. You have to be really into keeping rhythm like crazy, you know? Really focus to play those meditative guitar parts for, sometimes, 20 minutes.

It is meditative, but at the same time, it's also really powerful. Do you ever look around when you guys are playing onstage, and think, "Wow. We’re doing something really different. Something magical."

Yeah. I think it feels like that a lot of times. But it’s become second nature, you know? And there are some times where it feels more like that than other times. I think it sort of depends on a whole bunch of things: the sound of the room, the energy of the audience....

How hard is it to organize and create an album when there are so many of you involved?

In some instances, it’s a lot easier than I think people would imagine. Like, for example, one of the easiest things is writing the songs. The hardest thing is getting everyone in the same room at the same time.


We’re constantly on the road, on tour, running around. And when we get back to New York, it’s like everybody has to go back to work to pay the rent, or catch up on all the things they missed while on the road. I mean, we probably have about 20 tunes we still haven’t recorded yet.


Yeah. Good ones, too.


They’re ones where we’re like, "We gotta record that one!" So we want to record some more. We’re going to try and get back in the studio this summer. But that’s always one of the trickiest things.

With so many of you on tour, do you feel like you lucked out, that there’s this huge community of support for you guys? I assume you don’t have to pay huge tour bus budgets, or get hotel rooms often.

(laughs) Actually, we do. I mean, there’s enough of us where we have friends in a lot of cities, and we might not have to get so many hotel rooms. But we don’t know that many people. Even if we could stay at somebody’s house, to have all 12 or 14 of us stay at one house would be kinda rough. I mean, imagine the line to take a shit in the morning!


It’d take three hours! So, a lot of times, even if we have people offering us a place to stay, we wind up getting a hotel room for practicality’s sake. I definitely prefer to stay with people if we know someone in a specific town. It’s nice to be able to get a home-cooked meal, sleep in a real bed... or on a real floor.


So, I’d like to talk about the record a bit.


With Who Is This America?, did you enter the studio with a different mindset, or any different intentions than you did on previous records?

Well, this record is definitely the most collaborative record. It really represents us all as a group, instead of just representing a few people. Like, the first record, Liberation Afrobeat, Vol. 1, was all tunes that I wrote, and everybody just kind of put their finishing touches on. The second record was more half-and-half. And this one is more "us". There are five or six different songwriters. Quite a few of the tunes, like "Big Man", and one of the ones I brought in, "Payback Africa", were big collaborations; a bunch of people really working to tighten it up and polish it. And that’s really how we’ve been doing it for a long time; but the recordings are so far behind where we are in our live shows. This record’s a good feeling, though. People are really psyched about the artwork, and we’re all really excited about the effort that Ropeadope Records, our label, is putting into us. There’s definitely a better feeling coming through than on previous records.

You guys have been around since 1998, correct?


So, you’ve existed as a band during the end of Bill Clinton’s last administration, and into this new Bush administration.


Has there been a shift in attitude? I mean, has the change in administrations affected your songwriting at all, or fueled your live show?

In a lot of ways, it makes it seem even more necessary. In a way, that’s a bad thing. Ideally, you’d want conditions where music of struggle wasn’t necessary. But it is, and things continue to get so much darker. And, you know, Clinton wasn’t a very good person, all things said. But, comparatively....


It’s so much more than one person, though. It’s everyone who’s working for him, and everyone who’s been working in the government for so long. They’re just as responsible for setting these policies, and setting the course for this country. So, it’s definitely a lot bigger than Clinton, and a lot bigger than Bush. The strange thing about Afrobeat is that a lot of the earliest songs were written during military dictatorships in Nigeria; those Afrobeat classics that Fela was writing. We’ll perform some of them, and the sad thing about it is that some of the lyrics that we’re singing, about those military dictatorships in Africa in the Seventies, are very, very relevant to what we’re living in now in the United States. It definitely shows a regression on the part of the United States. We’re more chaotic, more dictator-like, more fearful, less organized... all conditions that were really characteristic of Nigeria in the Seventies. And now, Nigeria in the 2000s is beyond chaos.



I don’t know how much international touring you’ve been able to do, but is it different playing in other countries than it is here?

It depends on the countries. We’ve played in 14 different countries, all limited to Europe, and people are so much more connected to the world. We can drive six hours north into Canada, and, upon leaving the United States, it’s like, "Welcome to the rest of the world!" (laughs) People outside of America seem so much more tied into the actions of their country, you know? They know what’s going on in the rest of the world, and have a connection to it all; a sense of responsibility, maybe, that’s implied. Whereas the United States is a bubble. Even New York is more connected to the world in a lot of ways than middle America, but not by much. You know, some place in Iraq is burning, and people are just interested in going to the corner store and getting their bagel; living life as if nothing different’s happening.

Is that hard for you to see? Doing what you do, amidst the existing possibility that there are more people on Earth not as concerned as you are?

It’s frustrating. Especially when we go abroad, because people see us as cultural ambassadors. We’re the only Americans they get to talk to who aren’t backpackers or people in uniform. They’ll say, "Come here for a sec. What the fuck is going on over there?"


They’re like, "Why didn’t you guys have a revolution when Bush rigged the election?" They’re holding us accountable! And we tell them, "We’re doing what we can." America’s such a big country; it’s not like one group is going to have the solution, or one group will be placed happily upon the mantle. Plus, it’s not a wise thing to do. If you try to take it all on yourself, and they knock you out, then it’s over, you know?


So, the responsibility has to be shared by everyone. And that’s where any movement gets its strength; a lot of people who are down for the cause, and contributing their little bit, rather than one group that’s trying to shoulder everything.

Have you ever been able to meet any of Fela’s family?

We actually were hanging out with his youngest son over in England. He’s done shows with Femi Kuti’s group, and he sat in with us on a couple of occasions. So, without being with him, we’re as connected to Fela as we can be. We’ve done some shows with members of his Egypt 80. It’s important for us to have all this, too, so that we’re not just some music geeks creating this music in a vacuum. We’re genuinely trying to stay connected to the traditions, even though we’re in New York.

I wondered, too, if anyone connected to Fela had seen you, and been like, "Holy shit! These guys are doing it! They got it!"

Yeah. There’s a drummer who was on a couple of Fela’s recordings from the Eighties. He actually recorded three songs on our first record, Liberation Afrobeat, Vol. 1. He was really supportive from the beginning. He was like, "You guys got it! You guys are Afrobeat musicians. People who play classical music are classical musicians. You guys are Afrobeat musicians." Just having that encouragement... I mean, I don’t like to rely too heavily on people's opinions. But when you’re doing a type of music that is seemingly so far from the context in which you grew up, and you have somebody who was right in the middle of it from the very beginning tell you, "You’re a part of it, too,” that does go a long way.

What are your dreams with this?

Well, my dreams aren’t really relevant. (laughs) I’ve definitely... I wouldn’t say retreated, but definitely changed my role in the group. I mean, I still do most of the press and stuff. But as far as me being the main person in the group with the ideas, you know, the facilitator, no. Now I’m trying to just be a better saxophone player, keep on writing tunes, and keep figuring out creative ways to push the group forward. Really, the strength in Antibalas is each musician. That’s the depth that the group has. Like I said, with this record, there’s something like five different songwriters. One of the reasons that make it so much better is that it’d be really boring if it were a record of just my tunes.


I wouldn’t want to listen to that.


I think what would make me happy dream-wise, is just to get to more countries. Especially a lot of the poor countries, who might not normally be able to afford to bring us. We could do some creative fundraising. The thing with sponsorship is, we’ve been approached by a lot of different people at a lot of different times, but we’re really particular about who we take money from. The Catch-22 is, a lot of the people who have the means to bring us to, say, Mexico, are people we don’t want to have anything to do with, you know?


It’s been a real evolutionary process for everyone in the band, as far as how to relate to people in a non-hierarchical structure. There’s not some one person who has the final "yes" or "no". Our manager might make a decision, but it’s after he’s talked to a whole bunch of us. And we as a group will decide, "No. We’re not going to do this," or "Yes. We’ll do this, but under these conditions." We try to respect everybody in the group. Most of our brains are in the same general head, you know what I mean? But, sometimes, we end up spending hours talking about details. So, like I said, it’s a big evolutionary process. And it’s preparing us for a society in the future where maybe there is real democracy. You don’t even have to vote for somebody. You just express what you need, and what your goals are. I think one of the myths of democracy is that what you’re supposed to be doing is turning over your power to someone who doesn’t have to care about you for a couple of years. That’s not it at all. What’s happening in America is that, there are only a handful of people in all of Congress who really have the people’s backs. It’s really unfortunate. So, Antibalas is just a training ground for getting along in a truly democratic way. (laughs)

Do you think that, maybe if some of those guys in Congress started a band....

(laughs) I don’t know. I don’t think those guys in Congress have the funk.


Direct link to source!!!

Sep 21, 2010

Australian Afrobeat (Pt.III): Askari Afrobeat Orchestra

Information at their myspace page:

The Askari Afrobeat Orchestra is a collective of musicians brought together by a common love for African music, particularly the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen. Led by the intrepid duo of Jamie Searle (Mwalimu) and Jon Fernandes (Kinanda), the Askari Afrobeat Orchestra sets a course through Afrobeat, Highlife, Afro-funk and into the uncharted regions of African music... and beyond!!


Live review - from Xpress Magazine
The Askari Afrobeat Orchestra soon took the stage to perform. Their impressive 11-piece lineup (consisting of members of Odette Mercy and her Soul Atomics, the Funk Club House Band and Grace Barbe and her band) kept the dance floor going with a set of Afrobeat covers and originals.

Some of the covers were particularly well received, including Ghanian musical icon Ebo Taylor's Heaven, and the hypnotic Ethiopian funk of the Wallias Band's Musikawi Silt, which closed the set. Russ Dewbury took the mic to ask the crowd if they wanted more, and the Orchestra quickly returned for a slightly chaotic yet highly entertaining performance of Afrobeat classic Zombie with Jon Fernandes doing his best Fela Kuti impression.

Joshua Hayes - originally published in Xpress Magazine article Talkin all that Jazz - Russ Dewbury/Askari Afrobeat Orchestra/Charlie Bucket/Paul Gamblin
Devilles Pad Sunday April 25, 2010



The Askari Afrobeat Orchestra are one of the most exciting bands to come out of Perth in recent times.

This heavy weight collective of musicians are spearheading Australia’s growing Afro Funk movement hard on the heels of international luminaries Antibalas, the Soul Jazz Orchestra and Kokolo whilst continuing the rich legacy of Afro groove pioneers Fela Kuti and Tony Allen.

The band have attracted rave reviews for their energetic and authentic set of deep grooves and vicious rhythms. Bring your dancing shoes!



The Askari afrobeat orchestra is one of the bands I play in regularly around the Perth metropolitan area. We are a 13 piece band, yes that is big, that have been brought together by a common love for African music, particularly the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen.

Since forming in 2009 we have been the resident band at Afrodisia, this is a night promoted by Think Twice promotions which celebrates African Music, particularly the genre of Afrobeat. The Afrodisia nights started at Mojos in North Fremantle once a month on a Saturday before moving earlier in 2010 to being hosted at the Funk Club which is located upstairs at the Leederville Hotel. Afrodisia occurs the third Saturday of every month, the rest of the Friday nights at the Funk Club feature local, national and international acts in the Soul and Funk genres. On the 8th October the band get to support the inaugural visit of Mulatu Astatke and the 11 piece band “The Black Jesus Experience” at the Bakery in Northbridge. Multatu is considered to be the Father of the style of music known as Ethio-Jazz.

The band has largely been influenced by the music of Fela Kuti, considered the Father of Afrobeat, as well as Toni Allen and others including Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, Manu Dibango, Mulatu Astatqe, Franco Luambo Makaidi, Antibalas, Ebo Taylor, Alhaji K. Frimpong, the Daktaris, Orchestra Baobab, Sam Mangwana, Tabu Ley Rocheareau, Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Mahmoud Ahmed, Wallias Band in styles that include Afrobeat, Afrofunk, Highlife and Ethio Jazz.

The Askari are a local Perth band and comprise of 13 local Perth Musicians who work in numerous other bands across the city. The high level of skill and years of experience of these performers leads to a high energy and exciting evening of entertainment every time. Co-led by Jon Fernandes (Bass) and Jamie Searle (Guitar) the band features Grace Barbe (Neema) – bass, guitar, vocals. Ofa Fotu (Mrembo) – guitar, percussion, vocals. Rhys Bailey-Brooks (Kijana) – baritone saxophone. Jimmy Murphy (Madomo) – trumpet. Alistair McEvoy (Buzi) – saxophones. Simon Montgomery (Mtaalamu) – alto, tenor sax. John Brown (Anaondokaye) – sticks, shakere. Shane Kearney (Bingwa) – congas, djembe, talking drum. Zen Fusion (Kifimbo) – drum set. The regular band has also been joined at various times by many other musicians form in the Perth Music community for various shows.


Sep 20, 2010

NOMO: Defying Categorization with Expanded Electronics of Ghost Rock

NOMO, the alternative Afrobeat collective from Ann Arbor, Michigan, marches to its own beat, or more accurately, to the beat of four different percussionists.

Led by the lanky, baby-faced founder and composer Elliot Bergman, the nine-piece multi-ethnic/gender brigade is a mash-up of cultural and musical influences.

Defying classification to create an Afrobeat/funk/electronic hybrid (think Remain in Light-era Talking Heads with the sensibilities of Fela Kuti), the band has old-school jazz purists, hipsters, and indie rockers cocking an ear and taking notice.

With choice gigs at Bonnaroo and the 2007 Chicago Pitchfork Festival, along with opening slots for Ozomatli and Earth, Wind, and Fire, the road warriors of NOMO warmly embrace any scene or genre that will have them. In an industry obsessed with genre profiling, the band defies categorization, opting simply to attract the uninitiated with freewheeling live shows and an “all are welcome” credo.

“NOMO is a big melting pot of ideas and influences,” explains Bergman from his home in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. “It started with a bunch of us getting together and saying, ‘Let’s have a big Afrobeat jam.’

“I met most of the band through the University of Michigan, and we unified the vision to have a sound that is mostly instrumental, with a lot of horns and percussion that would get people dancing. I was always into jazz, particularly electric Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, but when I got to college, the doors opened.

“Ann Arbor is a pretty arts-orientated community, and when I started working at crate-digger’s paradise Encore Records, I started getting parallel educations. I got really into Indian and African music, as well as European bands like Gang of Four and Can.”

During the early incarnations of NOMO, Bergman moonlighted as an active member of indie-pop darlings Saturday Looks Good to Me, which acted as an outlet for his rock leanings.

With the recording of New Tones (Ubiquity) in 2006, Bergman and co. harnessed the improvisation of their live shows by filtering rhythmic horn lines through a tight funk gauntlet. While the interlocking of horn, percussion, and thumping bass are tight, the arrangements never feel rigid, and the continuous groove ebbs and flows but rarely falls flat.

A large part of the album’s sound can be credited to His Name is Alive founder Warn Defever’s role as producer.

“He’s a Pro Tools genius who engineers from a moral and ethical standpoint,” explains Bergman. “He had very specific ideas about how every instrument should sound and how it all fit together. However, it’s a very collaborative process and I’m always sitting there with him when he’s mixing.”

Much of NOMO’s appeal stems from the raw energy of its live shows. “Since the music is mostly instrumental, it may be a bit more challenging to connect emotionally, but there can also be a very strong visceral and emotional response,” Bergman says. “We’ve had people come up crying and wanting to hug us after a show, so there can be a very powerful connection.”

Aided by the critical success of New Tones and the strong word of mouth generated by the live shows, NOMO landed a slot on the 2007 Pitchfork Festival. On a sweltering July afternoon in Chicago’s Union Park, NOMO dared the typically reserved crowd to resist the groove and shed hipster inhibitions.

“It was a weird day,” he says. “The stage sound was disastrous, but people didn’t seem to mind. It was like senior prom, where you wait and plan for it forever, and then it’s over and done so quickly. At the end of the day, I was like, ‘Shoot, I forget to check out all the other bands.’”

As for any tales of debauchery or star-struck moments, Bergman offers none except for a backstage mix-up. “If this is my chance, I’d like to apologize to Menomena for accidentally drinking all of their beer. There were ten of us on tour and it gets very confusing. I think we also ate their veggie trays.”

After the Pitchfork gig, the band headed directly into Key Club Studies in Benton Harbor, Michigan with Defever to start work on its third album, Ghost Rock.

“Our drummer was leaving for India, so we booked two days immediately after our five-week tour,” recalls Bergman. “The band was super tight but also burned out. Everyone’s chops were busted, but we laid down some good stuff.

“The next day we focused on loops and electronics. People talk about a natural progression in our records, and I feel that this is a big artistic, if not necessarily logical, step forward for us. It’s a lot more minimal.”

Set for a June 17th release on Ubiquity Records, Ghost Rock finds the band mining much of the same territory of New Tones, while diving deep into the European electro soundscapes of Can and Brian Eno. It is at once swirling and dense, but completely approachable and funky as all hell.

“World music, jazz, electronica, Afrobeat…I hope that we don’t get marginalized by any of these terms,” says Bergman. “We are an American band, and in our hearts, I think we’re more of a rock band than anything else, but we do love so many different types of music.”

What’s ultimately mystifying about the band is how it is able to deftly integrate itself into rigidly defined social scenes of music. In a crude summation: the jazz people get it, the indie rockers dig it, and the jam and electronic crowd feels it.

“In the same year, we played Pitchfork and the Montreal Jazz Festival,” says Bergman. “We played with Dan Deacon to a bunch of young kids, but we also played punk clubs. We played a gig in Iowa City for maybe ten people. One time we had a group of swing-dancing elderly couples at the show who heard about us on NPR. I don’t want to turn anyone away. I just want to get this music out to as many receptive people as possible.

Source: by Drew Fortune

Sep 17, 2010

CSC Funk Band - Live at WFMU on Marty McSorely's show


Minimalist Funk. Repetition experiments. Improvisation exercises. Family fun. All star band killing it featuring Colin L(usaisamonster), Matt Mottel (talibam), Matt Clarke (Ostinato), Jimmy Thomson (Gwar), Jesse Lent (Monte Vista), Jonny Matteo(La Fundacion), Dave Kadden(Invisible Circle), Wes Buckley (Dick Heaven), a horn section. bongos. solos. psychadelic. We adapt and rearrange repetitous funk songs, keeping it dirty. We do originals. We even do a Dead cover. No rules, but it started and stays funky.

From their myspace page!!!


When flipping though singles in the new bin how do you not pick up a 45 for a band that has got 4 alternate names on it? CSC Funk Band, aka CSC Racket, aka Newtown Creek Playboys, aka Thrift Store Find, aka Fuck The Funk Band. Whatever they want to call it their Bad Banana Bread single has been burning holes in my playlists ever since.

By any name CSC is the real deal, a sweet spaced out, minimalist, heavy psyche funk collective rolling nine deep, compiled by Colin Langenus from USA is a Monster and Matt Motel from Talibam! which features many of the finest from the Brooklyn underground. Including Dave Kadden (Invisible Circle) playing an effected obo that will send your brain into opium-drenched wanderings though your wildest Ethiopique dreams. Plus Jimmy Thomson (GWAR) on percussion, keeping time that will blow your mind, moving in and out of sick boogaloo breaks and head bobbing struts that are so good they make you want to smack a sucka.

We have been hearing all kinds of great throw back funk and soul coming out of Brooklyn for minute now. While the Dap-Tone/Truth and Soul crowd go after the funk with style, class and sick matching outfits, CSC forgets all that and takes the George Clinton approach (+ more acid) and just wants to get funked up, taking a riff, finding their groove and pounding your jaded DIY loft dwelling ass into dance floor submission. And that’s where my like turned to love, while I was being forced into an epileptic dance fit at Market Hotel (R.I.P.) on an Todd P bill where CSC was opening for Awesome Color and Tyvek. After speaking to Colin for a minute and exchanging some emails with Jimmy I was stoaked to be able to bring them up to the WFMU studios for a live set. Big thanks to Jason Sigal recording the session.



"Funk" has long been a four-letter word in Brooklyn's noise-punk loft scene. To survive, hyper-aware BK dance bands either adopted stiff no wave personas, used aggro-synth terrorism, squelched out deconstructed stumblebump, or just signed to DFA, where disco gets a pass. But funk? Shit, better think about bringing that veggie-oil van back down to Bonnaroo, hippie. The brand-spanking new CSC Funk Band--the brainchild of former Usaisamonster mega-riffer Colin Langenus and Talibam! keyboard splatter-artist Matt Mottel--is unapologetically funk (it says so right in the name), and the band is set to bring booty-moving, head-nodding grooves to the Todd P universe. Boasting a nine(!)-piece lineup, the CSC features members from a variety of bands obscure and otherwise (drummer Jimmy Thomson once did duty as GWAR's Hans Orifice) and a sound that's tight, lively, and sharp. Langenus likes to draw the connection between funk and minimalist composition (i.e., repetition, repetition, repetition). But don't be surprised if dudes just devolve into a regular ol' awesome party band within a few weeks. "Bad Banana Bread" is definitely (and defiantly) more James Brown then James Murphy, and more acid-fried Funkadelic than either, given Langenus's ripping leads and Dave Kadden's completely bonkers, Ethiopiques-tinged oboe solo.



An interview

Tell me about how "Bad Banana Bread" came about...

A funk version of "Paradise City" with a bunch of riffs that sound like late Hendrix throwaways--which is my shit! We wanted to see if we could actually make a concise song... another experiment.

Why did you want to form a funk band as your next project?

I wanted to do something opposite from Usaisamonster. Something with lots of people, lots of repetition and jammy. And I wanted to work on my soloing.

Colin called me up as I was high as fuck driving to the Grand Canyon in late December 2008 and said he wanted me to play with him and it to be funky. I was all about it. Nothing like the Arizona desert to get you primed for jams.

Why do you think Brooklyn is so scared of funk?

Not sure why Brooklyn is stiff. Maybe it's the water or the over-aware record-head vibe.... But our band is loose and free. Relaxed makes it work.
Langenus: I'm old as fuck and live in Greenpoint. If they want to come to the gig, rad. If not I'll be there anyways....

What are the similarities you find between funk and minimalist music?

Minimalism and funk have the same tendencies to find the pocket and go with it. Currently I am in Paris about to play a gig hanging with Rhys Chatham and he says that one of the great minimalist composers of all time is George Clinton. So there you go.

I thought it was fun to try and explain funk as an avant-garde music, which it can be considered, but who gives a shit. I guess when we started we were so repetitious, ridiculously so on purpose, trying to be exaggeratedly minimalist, but now we're kinda a tight funk band with changes and everything.

What's your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

Polonia on Manhattan and Bedford

I miss Luncheonette Fountain off Nassau Ave and McGolrick Park... Lately I wound up a bunch at M Shanghai and the Chinese food is killer! It took six years to check it out, but worth it.



01. Caneca (03:10)
02. Bad Banana Bread (05:04)
03. Funk Shoppe (11:50)
04. A Troll's Soirée (03:13)
05. Little Business (11:21)

The live album can be downloaded for free at!!! Thank you!!!

Stuart Bogie of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra with his new group: Superhuman Happiness


Superhuman Happiness was founded in 2008 to seek joy and love through shared rhythm and melody, composed and improvised. They have one CD, Stuart Bogie's Superhuman Happiness - Fall Down Seven Time Stand Up Eight, and one 7" entitled GMYL/Hounds. Members are known for their work with Antibalas, the Sway Machinery, TV on the Radio, Battle Apples, The Phenomonal Handclap Band, Caural, The Roots, James Hunter, King Expressors, Passion Pit, Celebration, Holly Miranda, Foals and the inimitable MC Chris. The band regularly rehearses, composes, and records together, engaging in various improvisatory musical games currently being compiled for implementation in widespread applications.

From their myspace page!


Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight was recorded in 2007 in a dusty basement in New York. The compositions are a collection written by Stuart Bogie as Christmas presents for his family ten years ago. After a long and arduous tour conducting the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Bogie produced these recordings as a release from the mental inertia of the road. The songs explore contemporary directions in afrobeat and electrofunk, while being recorded on an old analog tape machine. The legendary Tascam 388 gives the producer only 8 tracks to shape his music, and this restriction provided the essential boundaries to guide the creative process. Two of the songs were produced with Zachary Mastoon (a.k.a. Caural), whom Bogie has worked with since about 1984.

Stuart Bogie is known for his arranging and playing with Passion Pit, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Holly Miranda, Volney Litmus, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, The FunkeyMonkeys, TV on the Radio, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Celebration, Zak De Larocca, Angelique Kidjo, Bat for Lashes, Foals, Scarlett Johansen, Harlem Shakes, The Roots, Mark Ronson, Saul Williams, Bright Black Morning Light and Islands.


The album:

Fall Down Seven Times Stand Up Eight


1. Prelude 01:50
2. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 04:15
3. Human Happiness 03:46
4. Interlude 01:19
5. Mr. Mystery 05:09
6. Somewhere In New Mexico 04:24
7. The Market 03:06

The album can be downloaded at their page here!!!

I strongly recommend to pass by there

Price for the record has to be defined by you!!!

South African Jazz: Malombo Jazz Makers


The group is based in Mamelodi, Pretoria and led by multi-instrumentalist Philip Tabane. Malombo is one of South Africa's longest standing groups, and has helped shape and inspire the musical careers of many.

Initially operating as The Malombo Jazzmen with Abe Cindi (flute) and Julian Bahula (percussion) in the 1960's, the group evolved to Malombo, with Tabane enlisting (and training) a succession of musicians, including Mabe Thobejane, and more recently, Raymond Motau and Oupa Monareng. The instrumentation is unconventional - African drums and hand percussion, interplaying with Tabane’s unique guitar, vocal, and flute sounds.

Tabane blends traditional compositions and cultural themes with his acoustic sounds.

Internationally acclaimed, Tabane has toured extensively in Europe and the United States, performing at the Apollo Theatre (New York) and the Montreaux Jazz Festival, amongst others. The group is based in Mamelodi, Pretoria.



For the record, Malombo split in to 2 groups in 1966 - Philip Tabane & Gabriel 'Mabi' Thobejane (who took over the percussion & drum duties from Julian Bahula), were known for a time as The Malombo Jazz Men, and Julian's Malombo became The Malombo Jazz Makers with Lucky Ranku (filling in for Philip) & Abe Cindi on Flute (Penny Whistle).



The enigmatic, innovative seer and composer-band leader Doctor Philip Tabane is a giant in South African music. Since the early 60s he has forged a musical path that defies boundaries, channelling the voices of his ancestors, the Malombo spirits of Venda, through rich polyrhythmic African beats and alchemic free jazz improvisation.

While Tabane has toured internationally, playing with jazz greats like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Charles Mingus, his home is in South Africa with Malombo. Here, working with an ever-shifting cast of musicians, his Malombo Jazz Makers, the master lets loose with intricate improvisation and free-form soloing that trace the linage of gospel, blues and funk back to its African roots.

But Malombo is not just music. It’s an individualised spirit force that uses song and dance as a vehicle of expression. It’s Tabane eschewing traditional cord structures as he fashions harmonious sound around the innuendo of his voice. It’s the Doctor, dressed in snakeskin trousers, injecting his Gibson hollow-body with an insatiable sense of discovery, coaxing free form sounds by hitting the strings or sparking otherworldly melodies from feather light plucks. It’s energy music, a potent life force that reignites black consciousness and speaks to the soul while insisting you get up and dance.



01 Ngivul Ele
02 Udondolo
03 Soul of Africa
04 Jolly Journey
05 Umkhosi
06 Majazana
07 Abbey's Body
08 Vukani
09 Hleziphi
10 Sibathathu
11 Malomb I Walk
12 Emoubane

Sep 16, 2010

Interview from 2009: Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra's Stuart Bogie


Stuart Bogie is one of the busiest people in the music business today. He’s a producer/composer, and studied music at the Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan.

Bogie has either recorded or performed with TV On The Radio, Gomez, Burning Spear, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sway Machinery, Wu-Tang Clan and The Roots to name a few. He’s also a member of Volney Litmus, Anitbalas and Superhuman Happiness, but his main gig is with Afrobeat super-group Antibalas.

While playing with each of these groups Bogie moves seamlessly between instruments playing the clarinet, bass harmonica, tenor and alto saxophones, keyboards and electric bass. Bogie maintains a relentless tour schedule and is a must see whoever he’s playing with.

The interview

How many different instruments do you play?

Comfortably – maybe five or six. It’s easy to get along between woodwinds, so if you play the tenor, then you can get along on the alto and the bari sax. If you play clarinet, you can get along on the bass clarinet, and the flute comes in there.

Is Antibalas on hiatus?

Yeah, Antibalas is taking a break right now. We did a couple gigs last year and the beginning of this year.

Antibalas is your primary band, correct?

Yeah, I’d say that’s my main thing. That and Superhuman Happiness and The Sway Machinery. I’ve put a lot of time into that too.

Going back to Antibalas – when I saw you guys play for the first time, it was in the Washington Mutual tent at Austin City Limits. Can you tell me about what you guys felt and were thinking before that show and during?

We’ve always wrestled with the issue of corporate sponsorship; it seems like our lives are corporate sponsored. You can get a free pair of shoes if you let the shoe company have a banner at your merchant thing, or you can use your band to support this cause or that cause. There are always issues of endorsing and how it happens; we always wrestle with it. It seemed poetic and ironic in several different playful ways that the tent that we were under – I guess metaphorically and literally – was run by a company that was collapsing and has now been bought out, and eaten by another. I don’t know what that changes for anybody. All of it’s just interesting. I wish I could be more poetic about it.

You contributed to several songs on last year’s TV On The Radio album, Dear Science. Are you going to join them at Coachella?

I think I’m going to play with them. That’s my plan, but I’m not sure of anything until I’m there.

Do you just wait for their call?

We’ve talked about it and I’ve got the date in my calendar, but I’m never sure if a date is certain or not – never. People cancel all the time, and the last person to find out is a sideman. With TV on the Radio, even though I’ve done some arranging for them and put in some creative energy, I’m just a sideman.

But even as a sideman, you played the entire Dear Science tour with them.

I did the U.S. I didn’t do Europe or Australia.

So what are you currently working on?

I’m balancing several projects right now. I have my own group – Superhuman Happiness – and we just finished tracking our record at TV on the Radio’s studio in Brooklyn. That has a bunch of great players on it from different groups. Then The Sway Machinery, that’s a group I’m in and it’s a group I’m a full member of. It’s led by this guy Jeremiah Lockwood, who’s the singer and guitarist and composer. We’re old friends. That band has a strong bond between the members.

What else has been going on with you in the New Year?

Antibalas did a concert with The Roots, which was really fantastic. We traded songs: they played our songs and we played theirs, back to back.

I’m a big Roots fan. They’re incredible.

It was great. We worked for two days together in a rehearsal studio set-up facing each other. I’ve been a fan of theirs since the second record, Do You Want More. I listened to them a lot when I was coming up, so it was kind of a landmark event for me to work with them.

Did you guys play in Brooklyn?

Yes, we did two nights in Brooklyn.

I’m assuming it was packed?

Oh yeah. It was packed and it was fun. The following Tuesday, we did Carnegie Hall. There was a Tibet House benefit that Philip Glass organized and we performed there. Vampire Weekend and Steve Earle was there. We did a song with Angeli Kidjo . She’s a singer from Berlin. We played on a record she did a couple years ago.

I bet that was an amazing experience.

Yeah. It was pretty cool. It felt pretty magical when we got out there. I was very happy.

I’m guessing Antibalas had the most energy.

Yeah. I think Antibalas is one of the greatest bands, and not because of what I do in it. I just hear Antibalas play, and – when I’m onstage with other bands, certain things that other bands do, Antibalas can’t do, but certain things that Antibalas does, other bands can’t – they take control of your body in a rhythmic kind of way and start operating all your limbs. I’ve been listening to it for so long now, its mother’s milk to me. It just makes sense. The rhythm makes sense to my body and to my mind. I always have these moments of thinking, ‘Dang. Antibalas sounds so good.’ I guess it’s just the time you put in. You earn that by playing together over and over again for a long time, and by staying aware through that; not playing yourself into a numb state until you’re checked out. If you stay aware of the music and play it over and over again, it just gets heavier and heavier.

Do you guys plan on touring in the near future?

Stuart: We don’t have any plans to tour. We’re starting to figure out what we’re going to do for our next record, but we don’t have plans to tour currently.

I look at you guys as an event. You don’t get to see a band like Antibalas much anywhere.

I think that’s becoming truer and truer. I feel like playing with Antibalas has become, in the last two years, a major event for me, because we don’t get to do it very often. Everybody’s just involved in other things.

You guys need to do more.

Yeah. It’s difficult. You know, it’s hard to share goals. That becomes very difficult. I wouldn’t say it’s the size of the band, necessarily, but with sort of the shape that leadership takes, it’s difficult to satisfy everybody’s need for trust and those kinds of things.

What do you mean by the trust part?

Well, I suppose if you have people that you want to work with and they need things proven to them, the responsibility goes to you to prove something, and at some point, you’re going to say, ‘Well, I don’t want to spend the energy proving. I can either prove or I can do, or maybe I can do both if I put all this energy into it,’ but the whole thing begins to feel like resistance. If one person doubts, then two people doubt, and three people doubt, you start to scratch your head and say, ‘What’s the point?’


‘What’s the point of trying something new?’ I still know the point of trying something new, but I’m talking about in a specific social situation. If, after a certain point, people don’t feel comfortable or are not satisfied with their proof or results of different people taking the lead, I suppose the friendly way would be to just express that in an apathetic way; it can read that way in the group. I think that happens, but in another way, it only makes it more special when it’s time to play. Then, all the origins come back. They’re deeper and fiercer than ever. The music has more vitality and strength than it ever has, when we begin playing – when we really get into it. That was my experience a couple months ago – it was just on. When we were playing with the Roots, we felt fantastic. It was the time of our lives.

Interview by Rollo & Grady! Thank you!!!

South African Jazz Sampler: Next Stop ... Soweto Vol. III

Information and reviews

Proving that the protest song knows no genres, this collection of songs from ‘63 to ’84 covers a nineteen year chunk of time when South African apartheid was at its most virulent. This collection of quality instrumental jams isn’t good because it was suppressed or because the African and European players were treated unjustly; it’s good in spite of that. Some tracks have an obvious African feel like the opening track, “Sibathuthu”, by the Malombo Jazz Makers, while others like “Malombo” by Sangoma sound as if they could have been written, played and recorded right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Admittedly, I was hoping to hear more distinct African and Afro-pop elements when I picked this album up, but I realize now that these folks were about making pure, unhyphenated jazz and that’s what it should be.



Strut Records released volume 3 in the three-part ”Next Stop… Soweto” series, exploring the musical soul of South Africa. While volumes 1 and 2 focused on township jive and soul, hip-hop, funk and R&B, volume 3 takes retrospective glance to a vibrant and sophisticated jazz scene in the midst of apartheid.

With imported influence from American legends such as Count Basie Orchestra, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker and a local infusion of more traditional marabi, a hipnotic rhythm, and kwela, a happy pennywhistle-based rhythm, South African jazz blossomed into its own category, mbaqanga, and in the 1950s found prominence on the world stage. Harsh apartheid restrictions, however, made it very difficult for any black musician to perform in the country at the time, and as a result many South African jazz musicians were forced into exile. Fortunately, many continued in their craft abroad, attracting international attention to the state of South African affairs, and returned home with the end of the apartheid in the 1990s.

Next Stop Soweto Vol. 3 chronicles the jazz musicians who stayed in South Africa and performed in defiance of the apartheid government, with a slight twist of irony. The complex, cultivated, upbeat and even swanky rhythm does not depict the pain and suffering of a people under the auspices of apartheid, but rather celebrates an imported African-American brand of music imbued with local culture in a way that illustrates the freedom those musicians deserved and, yet, were denied. It is not the music of the downtrodden, but the proud and hopeful.

The two-part album features South African ‘jazz giants, ministers and makers,’ like saxophonist Dudu Pukwana, drummer Early Mabuza, pianist Dollar Brand, the Soul Jazzmen, Heshoo Beshoo Group and The Drive.

The album also features an unreleased track, Dollar Brand’s ‘Next Stop Soweto’ from the archives of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Soweto was the home of the Cold Castle Jazz Festival, where many of South Africa’s jazz legends performed. In 1961, Dollar Brand, trumpet player Hugh Masekela and alto saxophonist Kippi Moeketsi played together, as the Jazz Epistles, at the festival and won first prize for jazz band.

As with previous volumes, the physical album features rare photos and sleeve notes by South Africa author on music and culture, Gwen Ansell.

This album comes highly recommended, if anything for its rich history, but primarily for its unique mode and elevated approach. Listen, and you’ll see what I mean.



Next Tuesday sees the release of Strut Records' third and final volume of the excellent Next Stop… Soweto series. The first two covered township jive and R&B and psych funk. Vol.3 is subtitled "Giants, Ministers and Makers - Jazz in South Africa 1963-1984" and it chronicles the jazz musicians who did not leave the country during the dark years of apartheid. They stayed and performed under the strict auspices of the Separate Amenities Act. The album features many South African jazz greats like saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and drummer Early Mabuza, and the potent soul jazz grooves of The Heshoo Beshoo Group and The Drive. Some of the artists created unique fusions, like Philip Tabane’s Malombo, mixing African drums and hand percussion with guitar, vocal and flute. This music is a defiant statement in the face of unimaginable cultural repression. You can't help but feel uplifted when you listen and that's a pretty remarkable feat.

Trumpeter Dennis Mpale was one of the regular players on the South African jazz scene splitting time between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and he plays in several of the outfits featured on Next Stop... Soweto Vol. 3. "Orlando" comes from an album under his own name, and is a tribute to his township.



Strut conclude their essential three-part excursion into the archives of South African music with the third and final volume of the ‘Next Stop… Soweto’ series.

Volume 3 is a long overdue retrospective of the rich jazz scene happening in South Africa from the early ‘60s to mid-‘80s. While many major artists lived in exile abroad and furthered their careers globally, many of South Africa’s finest jazz players remained, performing under the strict auspices of the Separate Amenities Act.

Jazz has a deep heritage in South Africa, dating from the early 20th Century. The country’s jazz scene flourished during the ‘50s, despite the increasing restrictions of apartheid, with musicians like the Jazz Epistles and Chris McGregor influenced by Charlie Parker & Duke Ellington before adding local marabi and kwela to their be bop. During the ‘60s, the Sharpville Massacre, radio restrictions and police clampdowns made the life of a black musician often untenable. Major names like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba left to live abroad.

Next Stop Soweto Vol. 3 is the story of the music that survived in South Africa during this mid-‘60s to mid-‘80s era. The album features many of the recognised South African jazz greats like saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and drummer Early Mabuza, the potent soul jazz grooves of The Heshoo Beshoo Group and The Drive and some of the many artists creating unique fusions like Philip Tabane’s Malombo mixing African drums and hand percussion with guitar, vocal and flute. This is important music, a defiant statement in the face of unimaginable cultural repression.

The album features an unreleased track, Dollar Brand’s ‘Next Stop Soweto’ from the archives of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. As with previous volumes, the package features rare photos from the ‘60s and ‘70s with sleeve notes by South Africa’s finest author on music and culture, Gwen Ansell. The compilers of the series are Duncan Brooker and Francis Gooding.



01. Malombo Jazz Makes - Sibathathu
02. Allen Kwela Octe - Question Mark
03. Spirits Rejoice - Joy
04. The Minister - Ngena Mntan’am
05. Tete Mbambisa - Stay Cool
06. Batsumi - Itumeleng
07. The Soul Jazzman - Inhlupeko
08. Mankunku Quartet - Dedication (To Daddy Trane and Brother Shorther)
09. Dennis Mpale - Orlando
10. Themba - Ou Kaas

01. Early Mabuza Quartet - Little Old Man (Maxjegwama)
02. Malombo - Sangoma
03. Chris Schilder Quartet feat. Mankunku - Spring
04. Jazz Giants - Pinese’s Dance
05. Dudu Pukwana - Joe’s Jika
06. Heshoo Beshoo Group - Emakhaya
07. The Drive - Howl
08. Chris McGregor & The Castle Lager Big Band - Switch
09. Jazz Ministers - Take Me To Brazil
10. Dollar Brand - Next Stop, Soweto (previously unreleased)

Thanx to Strut Records for this amazing compilation!

Sep 15, 2010

SJOB Movement - A Move In The Right Direction


Extreme Afro-Funk-Rock rarity. Aside from a few scattered blog entries, we’ve never seen this one given the attention it deserves. One track from their second LP was included on Soundway’s Nigeria Disco Funk Special compilation from last year. Some deep and spacey afro-funk rhythms from four heavy weight Nigerian musicians, and the first ever reissue of their 1974 classic album!



The album liner notes has an interesting introduction to the album and group setting telling how musicians were often extremely exploited and never credited (Fela kuta and James Brown were mentioned, with Fela living a slavery-owner like leadership, with one exception of a recording as a first compromise to the poor boys). It says Nigeria was one of the worst countries for band members making a strong distinction between lead singers and “band boys”. One initiative of some talented backing musicians, being tired of all the exploitations (for them at that time as the Ozziddi boys backing band for singer Okosuns), resulted into the formation of the SJOB Movement band. In this case they promoted a “band” feeling with no egalitarian structure. The good thing about it is that each member had all the freedom to develop psychedelic instrumentations, with the possibilities of solos which were adapted into a group sound. Mixed with a funky groove and Afro-rhythmic variations this surely worked successfully. Included is not only an organ, but also a Moog synthesizer with strange psychedelic effects and additional keyboard variations, some fuzz guitar and the African percussion. The album is very much a studio album under best conditions, showing a steady concept with a success mixture of groove, song and musical expressiveness, the psych factor. The song foundation remains, as well as the funky edge, enough time is given to instrumental parts too, showing the best of each element, tightly packaged into the strong group sound.

After this album, again according to the liner notes, the band began to embrace several different music genres. Some differences in tastes by the members were finally breaking the entity apart, only to be regrouped again in 1981, resulting in some after stories further explained further in the same liner notes.



Heavy heady funk from the 70s Nigerian scene – a wicked little record that's unlike anything else we've heard before! SJOB is a combo made from ex-members of the group of Sonny Okosuns – all top-shelf players who've clearly got their chops down in the groove department, but are also really willing to experiment with their sound as well! There's some hip spacey elements to the music – cool keyboards that weave in and out of the guitar and tighter rhythms – creating a sense of darkness that's totally great, even when things are still pretty funky. The structure of the tunes is far from familiar Afro Funk too – pretty offbeat and jagged – familiar rhythms one minute, then fresh ones the next! Titles include "Countrylove", "No One Cares", "Stone Funk", "Omo Oloro", and "You Only Live Once". (Great reissue – on heavy vinyl, with a bonus insert too!)



SJOB Movement's "A Move in the Right Direction" from 1974 is a wonderfully offbeat record, sure there are funky Afrobeat grooves for miles on here, but what makes this album really special is its off-kilter qualities. There's a heavy, introspective vibe at times, enhanced by swirling synth and keyboard sounds fairly unique in the region and era; it sounds far deeper and spacier than anything we've heard coming out of 1970s Nigeria.



01. Country Love 7:30
02. No One Cares 5:49
03. You Only Live Once 5:18
04. Omo Oloro (To Nje Eyin Awo) 9:11
05. Stone Funk 5:58

Recorded and remixed at the EMI Studio Apapa.
Licensed from Ivory Music Nigeria, courtesy G&A Music.
Originally released in 1975

Sampler: Club Africa Vol. 1 - Hard African Funk, Afro-Jazz, & Original Afro-Beat

Information and Reviews

One of a handful of Afro beat/Afro jazz compilations put out by British promoter and DJ Ross Dewbury, Club Africa features an infectious blend of '70s cuts informed by Fela's groundbreaking Afro roots and jazz blend. High profile moments come courtesy of Mandingo, Peter King, and Miriam Makeba, revealing the collection's cross-cultural bent in the process. In fact, a good amount here is global, coming from the likes of Columbia's Wganda Kenya, the New York-African group Buari (featuring jazz drummer Bernard Purdie), and the U.S. session band behind Chakachas' funk hit "Jungle Fever." And, yes, there is plenty of Africa here too, not only in all the music of course, but more directly in the Fela-meets-Sunny Ade side "Jungle Funk" by Nigeria's Nkengas and the Afro-Cuban cut "Kenia" by Kenya's Mombasa. The grooves are incredible throughout, making it easy to believe, as Dewbury purports in the liner notes, that this music is "the flavor of '99 with cutting edge DJs." Save for the Gaytones' lifeless rendition of the Manu Dibango hit "Soul Makossa" and the Ashantis' Afro-Allman Brothers jam "Everybody's Groove," it's not hard to see why the hipsters of Dance Nation are getting down to cuts like these.»


The best of american funk music mixed with the phrasing and tempos of traditional african music and you have got an amazing album. for lovers of world music and beat junkies alike. There are some familiar names like Miriam Makeba, Oneness of Juju and The Daktaris, along with more obscure acts and tracks. The whole thing's compiled by Russ Dewbury, so you know it's gotta be good. Pop this in your hi-fi and dig the heaviest grit to come out of the dark continent.


This is a truly groovy CD. Imagine all the best Funk horn riffs, layered and looped in a hypnotic dance mix that gets inside your soul. The energy of this CD could power a small nation. It's quite hard-edged, so don't expect easy listening, but do expect to be off your chair grooving. Best played EXTREMELY LOUD.


This compilation is a fine introduction to the funk movement that swept West Africa in the 1970s. Raw, gutsy dance music with those unmistakable funky backbeats, this stuff makes you move! The guitar playing, horns and keyboards are sometimes rough, but that's part of the sound and the bass and drums crank out those rhythms that started in the tribelands and can now be found as the base of today's R&B and hip hop. Be sure to get Volume 2 also, which is even better than this one!



1.: River Luv Lite - Oneness Of Juju
2.: Shakalaode - Kenya, Wganda
3.: Eltsuhg Ibal Lasiti - Daktaris
4.: Karam Bani - Buari
5.: Rhythm On Rhythm - Sookie
6.: Cheetah - Mandingo
7.: Soul Makossa - Gaytones
8.: Kenia - Mombassa
9.: Silver Black Summer Day - Living Funk
10.: Ritual - Gomez, Nico Afro-Percussion Inc.
11.: Jungle Funk - Nkengas
12.: Afro Funk - King, Peter
13.: Everybody's Groove - Ashantis
14.: Samba - Makeba, Miriam

Sep 9, 2010

The Afrobeat Diaries ... by (Pt.X)


Thanx again to Michael Ricci and Chris May!!!

Knitting Factory hits Fela Kuti purple patch

Knitting Factory's comprehensive, multi-format, Fela Kuti reissue program hits a new high with its second salvo, the "Na Poi" batch, released in May 2010. The seven discs span 1974-77, a remarkably prolific and creative time even by the Afrobeat originator's own standards.

As with the first "Chop 'n' Quench" batch—reviewed in Part 7 and Part 8 of the Afrobeat Diaries—each disc in the latest batch pairs two of Kuti's original vinyl LPs.

First up, Alagbon Close / Why Black Man Dey Suffer by Fela Ransome Kuti (as he then was) and Africa 70 (as it then was).

Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa 70
Alagbon Close / Why Black Man Dey Suffer

Preceded by the auspicious Gentleman and Afrodisiac in 1973, Alagbon Close, released in 1974, marked watersheds in the development of Afrobeat and in Kuti's politics. Many of the elements which make the album so compelling can be heard on earlier recordings, but on Alagbon Close Kuti and drummer/bandleader Tony Allen pulled them all together to devastating effect, in the process creating the definitive Afrobeat paradigm.

Africa 70 plays with unprecedented fire: the four-piece horn section was never more majestic; the nagging riffs and ostinatos of the tenor and rhythm guitars never more insistent. Allen is a lithe-limbed colossus, his signature rhythms at times driving the band forward, at others drawing it back like a coiled spring, only to unleash it again. Three conga drummers support him. Kuti's screaming multi-octave glissandos on the organ climax an incantatory solo, and the track's concluding drums and horns passage is Africa 70 at its most epic.

And in what was becoming Kuti's trademark lyric writing style, the title track, sung in the Broken English he adopted to communicate beyond only Yoruba speakers, highlights a particular social injustice to make a broader point: on the title track he exposes the brutality going on in the Alagbon Close police cells (Alagbon Close was the headquarters of the Nigerian Criminal Investigation Department in Lagos).

Knitting Factory's reissue series pairs Alagbon Close with an earlier release, Why Black Man Dey Suffer. Recorded in 1970, this was one of several albums Kuti made with the participation of the British drummer Ginger Baker, who was at the time in Nigeria recharging his Cream and Blind Faith-depleted batteries.

Why Black Man Dey Suffer is a more formative affair than Alagbon Close. It's one of a series of early 1970s albums which made the transition between the highlife and jazz blend of Kuti and Allen's first band, Koola Lobitos, and mature Afrobeat. Trumpeter Tunde Williams, baritone saxophonist Lekan Animashaun and first conga player Henry Kofi, from later line-ups including that on Alagbon Close, are in place. But Afrobeat's mesmerizingly repetitive tenor guitar has yet to be introduced, and, crucially, Allen didn't play on the session, making way for Ginger Baker.

Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa 70
Expensive Shit / He Miss Road

From the brutalities recounted in Alagbon Close to the ridiculous: Expensive Shit chronicles in hilarious detail a failed attempt to charge Kuti for possession of weed. It also provides more evidence of his bravery. He'd face down soldiers tooled up with guns and machetes, and berate them with insults tailored for the occasion. He acted with the same scant regard for his safety in confrontations with politicians and senior police or army officers.

Busted in 1974—police raiding his home saw him swallow a joint—Kuti was interviewed by a succession of goons, who all tried and failed to get him to fess up. As Kuti later recalled, he was eventually taken in front of the head of Nigerian Interpol, who told him "I'm going to talk to you in my office...."

"You get office?" Kuti asked sarcastically. "You foolish stupid bastard! You low-down sonofabitch, you dog, you goat, you....."

Kuti spent the next three days in jail, while the police waited for him to produce an incriminating "sample." But he and his cell mates swapped their slop buckets around and, lacking any evidence, the police had to let him go. The tale is recounted on the title track of Expensive Shit, a prime slice of tough Afrobeat, which features an outstanding, extended solo from trumpeter Tunde Williams.

Expensive Shit is paired with He Miss Road, produced by Ginger Baker but with Tony Allen on the drums. The three-track album lacks a song lyric as enduring as "Expensive Shit," but Baker's psychedelia-influenced production and mix still give it legs in 2010. Fascinated by the interplay between tenor and rhythm guitars, Baker placed them prominently in the mix, one on the left channel, the other the right. Drum and keyboard sounds are periodically bent and distorted, and there are memorable solos by Kuti, on organ, and by Williams and tenor saxophonist Christopher Uwaifor.

Fela & Africa 70
Before I Jump Like Monkey Give Me Banana / Excuse-O

First, let's hear it for the title, Before I Jump Like Monkey Give Me Banana, one of Kuti's funniest. And second, for Ghariokwu Lemi's artwork, featured on the front and rear sleeves of the original LP and reproduced here. (One of the pleasures of the Knitting Factory reissues is the reproduction of the front and rear sleeves of all the original LPs; and at about one-quarter of their original size, they still work ). Lemi's vibrant Afrodelic style graced many of Kuti's sleeves, perfectly capturing the spirit of the music. Still active in the noughties, in 2008 Lemi produced the artwork for the Brooklyn-based Akoya Afrobeat's P.D.P. President Dey Pass (Afrobomb Music), reviewed in Part 6 of the Afrobeat Diaries.

Before I Jump Like Monkey Give Me Banana has two tracks. "Monkey Banana" is a song of solidarity with, and warning to, Nigeria's working class, toiling without the benefit of social security, decent public health and education systems and the like. When you jump like a monkey to the command of your employer, don't forget the struggle for proper rewards, Kuti urges. "Sense Wiseness" is a lampoon on Nigeria's "been-tos," people who'd been to America, Europe, Russia or China to study, and came back home forgetting their roots. It's a theme Kuti would return to: see the review of J.J.D. Johnny Just Drop below.

Excuse-O opens with the lighthearted title track—you can hear the smile in Kuti's voice—suggesting how to deal with various potentially confrontational social situations without resorting to a stand-up quarrel. "Mr Grammarticalogylisationalism Is The Boss" revisits the "been-tos" of "Sense Wiseness" and ridicules their assumption that speaking "proper" English demonstrated superior intelligence and was also a necessary qualification for upward mobility. (Kuti loved wordplay like grammarticalogylisationalism, and spins some more in the video clip below).

Fela & Africa 70
Everything Scatter / Noise For Vendor Mouth

Like most of Kuti's albums, Everything Scatter and Noise For Vendor Mouth caused controversy on original release, though not for the usual reasons. On the rear sleeve of Everything Scatter, Kuti put photos of various inspirational figures: his children, his friend Jimo Kombi ("J.K.") Braimah, and African heads of state Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure and Idi Amin. The inclusion of Amin caused disquiet among some of Kuti's followers. But the Ugandan despot's fiery rhetoric in favor of African emancipation made him, in the mid 1970s, a hero to many black Africans; they were prepared to believe that the stories the British press told about Amin were lies inspired by multi-national companies with vested interests in Uganda.

Noise For Vendor Mouth wasn't controversial because of its graphic design (though the rear sleeve includes photos of four, bare-breasted, nubile Nigerian women). It was the album's B-side, "Mattress," which angered some listeners. Kuti always denied being a male chauvinist—and frequently spoke with deep respect of his mother, a leading Nigerian nationalist during British colonial rule. But his belief in African tradition, and in particular his espousal of polygamy, was out of kilter with gender politics in Europe and America at the time. Did this make him "sexist?" Kuti didn't think so.

Away from tricky questions about cultural relativity, on the two albums' title tracks, Kuti takes on the Nigerian elite who were criticizing him and his followers for being hooligans, weed smokers and political troublemakers. On "Everything Scatter," he lists some of the negative opinions held about him. On "Noise For Vendor Mouth" he answers back, telling his attackers that they are the real villains: venal, incompetent, political gangsters and military adventurers, living off the backs of the working class. He likens their accusations to the noise made by street vendors when selling their wares. Instrumentally, the track is solid gold too, with a complex, two-bar, call and response tenor guitar riff nagging away throughout.

These are two great albums, and now the dust around them has settled a bit, they deserve to be re-evaluated.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70
Ikoyi Blindness / Kalakuta Show

On Kalakuta Show, paired here with Ikoyi Blindness, Kuti tells the story of the first large-scale police attack on his self-declared "Kalakuta Republic"—the live/work compound he'd established for himself and Africa 70. The attack happened on 23 November, 1974, and, although it was on a smaller scale than the army's infamous attack in February 1977, it was a gruesome affair.

On the pretext of searching for a young woman who it was alleged Kuti had abducted, the police staged a surprise assault on Kalakuta. After breaking down the fence which surrounded the compound and throwing teargas canisters into its buildings, they set about anyone they could lay their hands on. Kuti was so badly beaten that he spent the next three days under police guard in hospital, no visitors, and especially no photographers, allowed, before his lawyer succeeded in getting him released on bail. Following a menacing introduction by the Africa 70 horns, and a tenor saxophone solo from Kuti, and underpinned throughout by insistent drums and shekere, the title track on Kalakuta Show relates the story.

In the title track on Ikoyi Blindness, Kuti drew attention to the economic chasm separating the haves and the have-nots of Lagos society, contrasting the mindsets of residents in the prosperous Ikoyi suburb with those of the poor inhabitants of the Mushin area, and finding the former wanting. The album was released a few months after Kalakuta Show. On it, Kuti announced his change of middle name from Ransome, which he now considered a slave name, to Anikulapo, and Africa 70's rebirth as Afrika 70. The cover showed Ransome crossed out, with Anikulapo added in above it. Kuti's full name now meant "He Who Emanates Greatness" (Fela), "Having Control Over Death" (Anikulapo), "Death Cannot Be Caused By Human Entity" (Kuti). It was a name-of-power, and Kuti was going to need all of it in the years which followed.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70
Yellow Fever / Na Poi

The song "Na Poi," from which the title of Knitting Factory's second batch of reissues is taken, is featured, in different versions, on both Yellow Fever and Na Poi.

"Na Poi" literally means "things will collide," and in the lyric Kuti describes what men and women get up to in bed in graphic detail, including references to angle of penetration and lubrication. The original, 1975 version, included as the "B" side of 1976's Yellow Fever, was banned by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. Never one to miss the opportunity of raising the stakes, Kuti recorded a longer (25:37) version for Na Poi, released a few months later.

In truth, contemporary shock value aside, "Na Poi" isn't an arresting lyric. Few things, surely, are as boring as watching other people have sex, but listening to someone else talk about having sex is even worse. Afrika 70, fortunately, is on burning form and on the longer version, in particular, there are several edge of the seat instrumental sections.

"Yellow Fever" is a more enduring song. In it, Kuti lays about the fashion for skin bleaching amongst Nigerian women, citing the practice as an example of the post-colonial, cultural inferiority complex he believed was holding back the country's development. The song addresses women much as 1973's "Gentleman," which lampooned the adoption of European suits and ties, addressed men.

"You No Go Die...Unless," with its unusually short playing time (7:35), was the filler track for Na Poi, whose title track took up all of the first and half of the second side of the original LP. More James Brown-derived funk than Afrobeat, it's reminiscent of Kuti's recordings with Koola Lobitos in Los Angeles in 1969 (see Part 7 of the Afrobeat Diaries). Over an urgent, edgy funk beat, Kuti tells the Nigerian state authorities that he doesn't fear them or their goons, and that he won't die until he himself is ready.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70
J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop) / Unnecessary Begging

The "Na Poi" batch concludes with more great Ghariokwu Lemi artwork (the rear cover of J.J.D. is as good as the front) and two mighty albums. In the lyric for "J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop)," the sole track on the eponymous album, Kuti returned to the subject matter of "Sense Wiseness" from Before I Jump Like Monkey Give Me Banana and "Mr Grammarticalogylisationalism Is The Boss" from Excuse-O; making fun of the "been-tos" who'd returned from studies abroad with an inferiority complex about African culture.

Unnecessary Begging by contrast salutes the Nigerian working class. The title track posits ghetto values as more honest and civic-minded than those prevailing among Lagos' business and political elite. "No Buredi (No Bread)" urges Nigeria's put-upon students and workers to stand up and demand a more equitable society.

Kuti's political engagement was to intensify during the latter half of the 1970s, with the formation of his Young African Pioneers party, its (occasional) YAP newspaper and his absolutely serious attempts to be elected President of Nigeria. Knitting Factory's third batch of reissues will consist of the albums which set out Kuti's political program and chronicle some of his actions.


Thanx again to Michael Ricci and Chris May!!!