May 4, 2011
Fela Kuti - Live with Ginger Baker (1971)
Live with Ginger Baker (1971)
Originally recorded in 1971 and 1978 by Fela Kuti’s band, Africa 70, with the addition of former Cream drummer Ginger Baker, this album contains 4 songs plus a bonus track 16-minute drum duet between Baker and Africa 70’s drummer Tony Allen recorded at the 1978 Berlin Jazz Festival.
‘Let us start what we’ve come into the room to do’ is telling it as it is — graphic explicit sex. Sung in Yoruba with some broken English explanations, Fela calls on his partner in the room to get on with it, ‘don’t play the innocent…let’s start! Take off your clothes! Let’s start!’. The recording has Ginger Baker, of the former English pop group ‘Cream’ playing live as guest drummer on some tracks like Let’s Start, in place of Tony Allen, the regular drum player in Fela’s Africa 70 band. The Album titled ‘Live with Ginger Baker’ was recorded in the sixteen track mobile studio Ginger Baker sold to Polygram Nigeria in 1976.
Black Man’s Cry
Black man’s cry is about identity. ‘I am black and proud’ Fela sings in Yoruba, ‘Who says Black is not beautiful! Bring that person out, let me see!’ — he challenges, ‘There is nothing as beautiful as the black skin! Look at me! Look at me very well! There is nothing as beautiful as the black skin! Look at me very well!’. It is a song to rid the black mind of inferiority complex, particularly Africans who use chemical products to bleach their skin, or Africans who feel inferior to the White folks.
Ye Ye De Smell
Ye ye de smell is about people getting what they deserve-reaping what you sow. If you flirt with another person’s wife, you shouldn’t feel bad if people do the same to you. Literally meaning: bullshit stinks. It implies that if you give people bullshit, you should not be surprised if you get the same back from others.
Egbe Mi O (Carry Me I Want To Die)
“Egbe Me” in Yoruba language means: Carry me. In this song, Fela is singing about the different kinds of things that happen to you while you dance. How could you go into trance while dancing? How in a state of musical trance, the traditional beads women wear under their skirts break without the woman noticing. How a man’s hat would fall of his head while dancing without him noticing. All kinds of things happen to you doing the dance — but you are not alone! ‘…be ke iwo nikan ko’. Fela ends this track with a general chorus calling everybody together with the band: Egbe Mi O!
Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu
Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti brought a refreshing attitude to his music. On one hand, he was deeply distrustful of authority in all its forms. On the other, he understood that the members of his groups would have to work together to function as a unit. What emerged from that mindset was a unique approach to group dynamics. While the members of his bands knew they would have to play with precision, they could also play with grace. In this particular incarnation, six percussionists ensure the groove never drifts far, and most of the time the melody instruments also reinforce the beat. Sure, soloists regularly trade leads, and refrains call everyone together. But it is, after all, a difficult task bringing the rich rhythms of Africa together with the driving energy of funk and the panoramic color of jazz. Because Fela could make it work, he became a legend.
Enter Ginger Baker. Baker tooled into Nigeria in 1969, having come directly from Europe in a Land Rover. His stated purpose was to absorb and internalize the rhythms of Africa, and he was remarkably successful in accomplishing this task. Fela Kuti already had an astonishingly brilliant drummer in the form of Tony Allen, who was able to simultaneously perform a world of rhythm. But Ginger Baker brought something new to the mix.
Live! was recorded in 1971 with Fela's group at the time, the Africa 70. Due to its demanding performance schedule, the band is remarkably tight. Interlocking rhythms drive keyboard and guitar vamps, propelling instrumental soloists on trumpet and saxophone. There's a nice jazzy feel here, manifested both in an elastic sense of time and in an ensemble approach to performance. Improvised passages lie interspersed between statements of the theme, with Fela improvising on voice or delivering some rather frank lyrics in English and Yoruba. For example, the message of the opener: Let's get it on! (This piece features Ginger Baker sitting in for Tony Allen on drums, and he does quite well. Baker trades his usual heavy-handed approach for a lighter touch, dancing in and around the beat.)
The last track, recorded live in 1978, is a wonderful addition to the reissue of this record. It's a 16-minute duet between Tony Allen and Ginger Baker. These two men perform as equals, making for an interesting situation. Allen, as usual, is impossible to pin down. Baker manages to integrate and interweave his rhythms, making the combination much greater than the sum of its parts.
Live! is as tight, funky, and sensual as any record Fela Kuti ever made. Having Ginger Baker in the mix makes it a bit unusual, but this is an excellent recording suitable for Fela initiates and devotees alike.
allaboutjazz.com, written by Nils Jacobson
Originally released in 1971, this LP had Fela Kuti solidifying the format that would take him into international visibility in the years to come: extended tracks with grooves that mixed African and funk rhythms, punctuated by rudimentary lyrics. There are just four songs on the album, none shorter than seven minutes, and all but one going over the ten-minute mark. More than a dozen strong, his band, the Africa '70, cooks pretty well on tracks that fuse jazz, soul, and African music in a trancelike fashion that avoids becoming stale, despite the length of the arrangements. Ex-Cream/Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker's name was given prominence in the billing, probably to attract rock- and pop-oriented listeners who might not ordinarily take a chance on music from the African continent. However, it's Fela and Africa '70, not Baker, who are the dominant presence on a record that sounded much like a mixture of James Brown, fusion, and Nigerian forms.
When this live set from afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti was released in 1971 Kuti had yet to be recognized as the political and cultural hero that threatened both his career and life. In fact, it wasn't until a James Brown tour of Africa in 1971, that the continent of Africa started to grasp Kuti's funked out sounds a political lyrics. In the beginning, Kuti had spent some time in London recording his earliest singles under the direction of Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Baker had become entrenched in African music after moving to Lagos. On this set, Baker replaces long time Kuti collaborator Tony Allen behind the drum kit for the opener "Let's Start" and the 13-minute jam "Ye Ye De Smell." The latter turns into a relentless percussive jam with Baker and Allen trading blow for blow like an Ali v. Forman heavyweight fight. Kuti would later return the favor providing vocals, percussion, and organ to Baker's Stratavarious record which further increased the African palates to western sounds. It would not be to much later that Kuti would become an international icon.
Originally released in 1971, this LP had Fela Kuti solidifying the format that would take him into international visibility in the years to come: extended tracks with grooves that mixed African and funk rhythms, punctuated by rudimentary lyrics. There are just four songs on the album, none shorter than seven minutes, and all but one going over the ten-minute mark. More than a dozen strong, his band, the Africa '70, cooks pretty well on tracks that fuse jazz, soul, and African music in a trancelike fashion that avoids becoming stale, despite the length of the arrangements. Ex-Cream/Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker's name was given prominence in the billing, probably to attract rock- and pop-oriented listeners who might not ordinarily take a chance on music from the African continent. However, it's Fela and Africa '70, not Baker, who are the dominant presence on a record that sounded much like a mixture of James Brown, fusion, and Nigerian forms. [The 2001 CD reissue on MCA adds a comparatively disappointing 16-minute drum solo by Ginger Baker and Africa '70 drummer Tony Allen, recorded live at the 1978 Berlin Jazz Festival. If Fela had any involvement with that track, it's not noted on the sleeve.]
1. Let's Start
2. Black Man's Cry
3. Ye Ye De Smell
4. Egbe Mi O (Carry Me I Want To Die)
5. Ginger Baker & Tony Allen Drum Solo