Jun 16, 2011
Fela Kuti - Kalakuta Show (1976)/ Ikoyi Blindness (1975)
These two 1976 albums from Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and his Africa 70 are documents of an ensemble at the height of their powers. Afrofunk doesn’t get much better than this. Both albums are populated with some incredible tenor sax solos from Fela demonstrating his increasing affinity with the instrument and the rest of the band are impossibly tight with an incredible groove. The music is taut, melodic two chord bass, thin repetitive guitar and stuttering power horns that will put hair on your chest.
Ikoyi Blindness like many of Fela’s songs is about the blindness of the ruling class, who chose professions for status instead of passion. “Them miss the road,” he offers on this fifteen minute blast of power Afrobeat which features one of the greatest horn riffs in any of his songs, where the brass feels plugged straight in to your adrenalin glands, and midway the tune descends into this really incredible highly repetitive horn solo that enables everything to break right down before kicking back in with a vengeance. The second piece, the fourteen minute Gba Mi Leti Ki N’Dolowo, translated to Slap Me Make I Get Money, offers quite a different kind of driving Tony Allen beat, speeding everything up giving it a frantic feel. It references law suits from the poor against the rich who had to pay settlements, with Fela suggesting that the rich could no longer take advantage of the poorer with impunity.
If there was ever any doubt about the persecution Fela and his followers experienced at the hands of the Nigerian government and police all you need to do is look at the cover of his album Kalakuta Show. It’s a hand drawn representation of the police armed with batons beating people on the ground and shooting tear gas in their raid on Fela’s home in 1974. whilst many of his followers were injured Fela himself spent 17 days in hospital as a result. The inside cover has pictures of the head wounds he suffered at the hands of the police. The tune proper is a fourteen and a half minute musical revenge. It’s Fela striking back against the attack, refusing to back down, laying it out for everyone to know what their government was up to. Beginning with Fela’s mournful tenor sax, playing out like a sad scene in a bad 80′s film, it quickly erupts into an incredible fusion of James Brown style funk and the Nigerian highlife, an Afrofunk band at the height of their powers. The sixteen minute Don’t Make Garan Garan, or don’t brag like a big man to me, is another swipe at the Lagos class inequality, suggesting that we all know that if heaven falls it will fall on everyone. It’s a much slower song than its predecessor, just chugging along at a canter, It’s a gentle repetitive groove that you can just sink into as Fela alternative solos on sax and keys before taking to the mic. Beautiful.
Bob Baker Fish
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.
Read the full article at allaboutjazz.com
Following the release of Zombie (Phonogram Nigeria), an incendiary lampoon of the military, the Nigerian army staged an even bigger and more savage assault on 18 February 1977, during which Kalakuta was burnt to the ground and its occupants beaten, or raped, or both.
Although the police attack on Kalakuta in November 1974 was on a smaller scale than the army's 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, a tough tenor saxophone solo from Kuti, and underpinned throughout by insistent drums and shekere, the title track on Kalakuta Show relates the story.
Wrasse Records' reissue of Kalakuta Show includes another top drawer album, Ikoyi Blindness (African Music International), released a few months later. On Ikoyi, Kuti celebrated 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 (see next page).
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 on 18 February, 1977.
Read the full article at allaboutjazz.com
Ikoyi Blindness was a middle-of-the-pack release in a sea of mid-1970s Kuti records that featured two songs and about a half-hour's worth of music. The rhythms were a little tighter and more highlife-influenced than they had been on albums from earlier in the decade. "Ikoyi Blindness" itself was pretty typical of efforts from the period, both in a structure that built up to call-and-response vocal, and in a taut two-chord melodic base. "Gba Mi Leti Ki N'Dolowo (Slap Me Make I Get Money)" is a little more interesting due to its choppier rhythms, more vibrant percussion, stuttering low guitar riff, and extended haunting electric keyboard lines. Both songs are on the 2001 MCA CD reissue Ikoyi Blindness/Kalakuta Show, which also includes both songs from the 1976 release Kalakuta Show.
This CD reissue combines two 1976 releases, Ikoyi Blindness and Kalakuta Show, on one disc. Ikoyi Blindness was a middle-of-the-pack release in a sea of mid-'70s Fela records that featured two songs and about a half-hour's worth of music. The rhythms were a little tighter and more highlife-influenced than they had been on albums from earlier in the decade. "Ikoyi Blindness" itself was pretty typical of Fela efforts from the period, both in its structure that built up to a call-and-response vocal and in its taut two-chord melodic base. "Gba Mi Leti Ki N'Dolowo (Slap Me Make I Get Money)" is a little more interesting due to its choppier rhythms, more vibrant percussion, stuttering low guitar riff, and extended haunting electric keyboard lines. By the time of 1976's Kalakuta Show, Fela's releases were starting to seem not so much like records as ongoing installments in one long jam documenting the state of mind of Nigeria's leading contemporary musician and ideological/political dissenter. The track "Kalakuta Show" was unexceptional by his own standards, though it was a respectable lock-groove song that followed the usual graph of Fela's song progressions. The lyrics, at any rate, go far outside the usual funk/pop spectrum, detailing his harassment at the hands of the Nigerian police. "Don't Make Garan Garan" was musically more effective, particularly in its use of Fela's characteristically eerie, out-of-sync-sounding electric keyboards.
"Ikoyi Blindness/Kalakuta Show" is another gem in the Fela two-albums-on-one-CD reissue series on MCA. Both original LPs, "Ikoyi Blindness" and its b-side "Gba Mi Leti Ki N'Dolowo (Slap Me Make I Get Money)," and "Kalakuta Show" and its b-sihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifde "Don't Make Garan Garan," were issued in 1976. These albums were part of what was arguably Fela's greatest period as he released more than a dozen albums between 1975-77! While "Zombie" and "Opposite People" are clearly the essential recordings from this period, this disc, and all of the Fela reissues, are really indispensable.
Each of these LPs is quite strong on its own. This material is from Fela's mid-70's period, when the guitars were massing and providing great continuum in many of the songs, and his music was deeply funky. But you'll also hear great, perfect horn arrangements on some tracks here.
Kalakuta Show (1976)
The Kalakuta Show album release was Fela’s undaunted manner of extracting revenge on the military regime that attacked and brutalized him in 1974. The second of such attacks in a space of eight months, Kalakuta Show was an attempt by the Nigerian police to influence the cause of justice. After the first police raid on Kalakuta in April 1974, Fela was charged to court for: ‘possession of dangerous drugs’, and abduction of ‘minors’. However, the evidence presented by the prosecution was easily explained by the defense, who claimed that the drugs found in the premises belonged to Junction Clinic, a government licensed clinic situated inside Kalakuta Republic and run by Fela’s younger brother, Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti. On the ‘abduction of minor’ charge, all the young girls arrested in Fela’s house denied they were underage, nor abducted, and they claimed in court they went to Fela’s house of their own accord. With no substantial evidence to convict Fela in this highly publicized trial, the police chose to raid Fela’s residence a second time, one week before judgment on the case, hoping to find evidence this time around. The result is the narrative of the grueling and brutal manner the police treated their victims. They list the case, and Fela appearing in court with scalp wounds, and a broken arm, drew more sympathy from the judge than the contrary. A crowd of more than fifty-thousand Lagos youths carried Fela from the court house in the Apapa area of Lagos to Kalakuta Republic—a distance of about six kilometers. During this jubilation, traffic was at a stand-still for several hours in the central part of Lagos mainland.
Don’t Make Garan Garan: The right to the land belongs to all. We are all sons and daughters of the land—sings Fela in Don’t Make Big-Mannism for me. Ganran Ganran in Yoruba language means: an egoist, full of himself, self-centered person. The rich and highly placed Nigerians, who frequently try to lord it over the poor, are being asked to know their limits. For if they bring their big-manism close to him(Fela), heaven will fall: ‘…to ba se ganran ganran si mi orun awoo! We all know that, if heaven falls it will fall on everyone,’ he concludes.
Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu
01. Kalakuta Show
02. Don't Make Garan Garan
Ikoyi Blindness (1975)
Fela’s definition of mental — blindness is a person who, with his eyes wide-open, misses his direction and keeps turning round in circles without ever getting to his destination. Ikoyi Blindness refers to the Nigerian elite class who choose wrong professions because it provides them status in society rather than job satisfaction. Not only are they in the wrong professions, they are also blind to the sufferings of their fellow countrymen who live in ghettos like: Mushin, Ajegunle, Somolu, Maroko and even Kalakuta. Pointing to the example of a lawyer; who instead of buying law books, chooses hammer as his trade tool, or a musician who chooses spanner as his trade tool. Fela says there is still some hope for such men, if they could channel their way of thinking towards their environment. ‘…them miss road! Them find road again oh!’. Those social-climbers who see the status quo and stepping into the shoes of former colonial administrators as a sign of moving up in society. They are forgetting that the majority of their folks are still struggling in the ghettos. Such people must realize that they are worse off than a blind person living next to a river. They are going to fall: “shallow” into more ‘Ikoyi mental’ Blindness.
Gba Mi Leti Ki N’Dolowo(Slap Me Make I Get Money): 1974 was a turning point for the judicial system to live up to its sworn goal of upholding the law. Particularly, in a country where the rich constantly took advantage of the poor with impunity. A series of lawsuits involving people from the lower echelons of society, against high society and influential men, resulted in the rich paying high fees as damage to their poor accusers. Fela sang about the issue making the point that you cannot take advantage of anyone and get away with it. If you slap me, I will get money. For as long as I respect myself, I won’t go beyond my bounds — if you slap me you will pay.
Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu
01. Ikoyi Blindness
02. Gba Mi Leti Ki N'Dolowo (Slap Me Make I Get Money)