Oct 25, 2011
Fela Kuti - Live In Amsterdam (1984)
I remember walking around the city of Amsterdam as a 13 year old boy. There were flyers hanging all over town advertising the concert in Paradiso of a musician I had never heard of before. For some reason the image of the muscular torso, the saxophone and the look in his eyes stayed with me. I later read a review in the newspaper of the concert that the flyers advertised and several months later the album "Live in Amsterdam" was in my possession. Now, nearly 25 years later, I own the remastered version of the concert and it's still one of my favourite Fela Kuti albums.
"Movement of the People Political Statement Number One" is one of Fela's longest and most interesting compositions. The original LP version had to be cut in half, as it didn't fit on one side! After Tony Allen left his band, Fela's music became more keyboard oriented. This song starts out with a militaristic rhythm from Fela's organ. In due time, bass, drums, guitar, horns and finally vocals are added. Though very long the song contains fabulous saxophone solo's form Fela and his son Femi (who was still playing with his father's band) swirling in, out and between the replies of the horns section. The subject of the song is Africa's colonial history and the traditional African `call and answer' with Fela's wives, who acted as back-up singers, gives the song the power of an anthem. Fela incorporates his "underground spiritual game" in the form of a traditional African song into this composition. And it swings like hell!
"Gimme **** I give you ****" takes a trip towards the jazzy side of Afrobeat. Fela's rare use of the piano and comical satirical lyrics make in another highlight in the Egypt 80 collection.
"Custom Check Point", a song about the division of countries in Africa, is an unusual song for Fela. A very intense pace, danceable to the extreme and an oriental sounding keyboard solo towards the end of the song make it another unique gem.
My conclusion: This album is a must for any fan of Fela Kuti. A crystal clear remastering of his most comprehensive set of live songs. There's a little booklet with the CD with a sketch of Fela's life and explanations of the songs. It might take some time to get used to if you're new to Afrobeat's long compositions. If you enjoy this album I would also recommend Army Arrangement and Teacher don't Teach me Nonsense.
Recorded by British dub specialist Dennis Bovell at Amsterdam's Paradiso on 28 November, 1983, Live In Amsterdam has also been available as Musik Is The Weapon. It was first released as a double LP: the first track alone, "M.O.P. Movement Of The People (Political Statement Number 1)," its title taken from the name of Kuti's political party, clocks in at over 37 minutes. The three tracks deal with the debilitating legacy of colonialism, and the post-colonial mindsets of governing elites, in Nigeria and throughout Africa,
The Egypt 80 lineup is rocking and powerful, tightly arranged and includes some fine soloists. The horn section, expanded to seven players, is anchored by two baritone saxophonists (Kola Oni joined Lekan Animashaun, who'd been with Kuti since 1965) and also includes Kuti's son, Femi, on alto. Fela himself is heard on soprano, the instrument he'd been obliged to take up in place of the heavier tenor following the beating referenced on Original Sufferhead. There are also two keyboard players: Kuti, mostly heard on organ, is accompanied by rhythm pianist Dele Sosimi. Drummer Ola Ijagun (mistakenly identified as a conga player on some previous editions of the album) is a more than competent replacement for Afrika 70's Tony Allen, who was with Kuti from 1964-79, from whose trademark rhythms he rarely strays.
Live In Amsterdam was mixed by Kuti and Bovell in London. The sound is excellent and Bovell's presence assured plenty of bottom.
Read the full article at allaboutjazz.
"Live in Amsterdam" is one of Fela's best albums with Egypt 80. Unlike most titles in the MCA reissue series, this one is not two albums on one CD, but is instead three songs and nearly 80 minutes of music from a November 28, 1983 concert in Amsterdam. While some of Fela's material with Egypt 80 can be too keyboard driven for my tastes, here the band grooves like classic Afrika 70 -- multi-layered percussion, funky rhythms and intricate horn play. This is not only one of Fela's best live albums (I prefer it easily to "VIP" -- see my review), but I would rank it along with "Original Sufferhead" and "Beasts of No Nation" as his best efforts from the 1980s. Of course, all of the Fela reissues are really indispensable, and you should get them while you can.
Michael B. Richman
Live In Amsterdam (1984)
M.O.P(Movement Of The People) Political Statement Number 1
Despite the diabolic manner in which the military regime, in their transition to civil rule programme, eliminated young political movements from contesting the 1979 general elections in Nigeria, Fela continued the struggle in the name of his unregistered party—the Movement Of The People (MOP). He made political statements critical of the military and their civilian successors. Movement Of The People Political Statement 1 is one such stated opinion. In his habitual sarcastic manner, Fela starts the song saying: “Before they turn us into monkey with tail Let us hear some important things! That our governments is hiding from us—we will expose them” Delving into some history, he says: “..we have to talk about long time ago”, referring to the history of Eko (Lagos), before the arrival of the British colonial administration. How the British used their ‘divide and rule’ tactics to gain a foot-hold in the coastal regions, thus paving the way for their eventual colonization of the entire country. Thus came the so-called ‘trading’ companies: United Trading Company(UAC), John Holt Company, etc., whose sole interest were to exploit the African people and their natural resources. To ensure their absolute control, the British like all other colonialist, started to recruit some of the natives into their forces. Thus began the military and police institutions, who were trained to brutalize and suppress all forms of decent and oppositions. Unlike the United States, where the military institution provides poor families the possibility of an education, those who took up military careers in colonial times England were mostly ‘never do wells’, students whose school grades were below the average mark. These are the quality of me that made up the colonial forces. Fela reminds his listener that before the arrival of colonial administration, there were no police and army institutions in the African society. Whenever there was war, all the able bodied men and sometimes women volunteered to defend the nation while the wars lasts. As soon as the war is over, the warring men and women, went back to their respective jobs. This is unlike the institutions created by the colonial administration – with soldiers and police gallivanting around, doing the dirty works of their employers. The colonial administration started the police college and army schools to brainwash their new recruits, condemning the authentic traditions of the people, as savage and encouraging them to look up to the culture of the colonizers as superior. Fela says we should ask ourselves what is government? For him, government and the governed should have a father-son relationship, with mutual love and concern for the welfare of both parties, as their main focus. However, in Africa, there is no father-son relationship between the government and the governed. Instead what we have, are men who like to lord it over the masses. Hence, when such government officials appear in public places, they are surrounded by their police and army. For Fela, this is an alienation. In conclusion, he says if those in government think first of the welfare of their c citizens, they won’t need all that security to move around among their own people.
You Give Me Shit I Give You Shit
In this song Fela is addressing Africans and the Diaspora to stop playing ‘the second fiddle in life’. Using a discussion between him and a European businessman to make his point he says: ‘hear the discussion between European and myself..!’ saying the European is attempting to show how important and well connected his is in Africa, and talks of having so many companies with a lot of black people working for him. How this European claims to be a friend of all African heads of state, how he was at a dinner last night with the president of Nigeria. To make the European tell more, Fela says he offered the man the last ‘joint’ marijuana in his pocket, which further let-loose the European’s tongue. After his long narrative, Fela decides to ask if in Europe and America, any black man could have the same opportunity as he does in Africa: ‘If black people own companies in Europe like he does in Africa? If black people can easily be invited to dinner with any European leader—just like that? He points to ‘negritude’ and colonial mentality as the cause of African inferiority complex. For Fela, there is a problem of leadership in Africa as Africans don’t like to do things for their own folks. He says he feels vexed that Africans in the twentieth century are still slaves of the system. For him it is time to stand firm: ‘anybody that gives us shit will get shit’.
Custom Check Point
In 1884-1885, colonial powers met in Berlin to divide and share Africa among themselves. With this Balkanization, artificial borders were created to separate African people. With independence, most of the nations still respect and adhere to the frontiers created from colonial times. Custom Check Point is Fela’s criticism of the system that still respects these artificial boundaries separating African people. Tracing the cultural, linguistic and traditional unity of Africa people to an origin of one motherhood. Fela describes the men of customs and excise as human who have been put in place to do the dirty works of those who want to keep Africans apart. He advises them to pack-up and allow our people to travel freely among sister nations. Cut down the barriers! Custom she kia kia kia! He asks them to hurry-up and get out of the way.
Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu