Sep 2, 2013
Red Hot + Fela
Over the years, AIDS charity Red Hot has recruited a number of musicians worldwide for charity compilations benefiting AIDS awareness and research. These have included both Red Hot + Rio and its sequel, featuring the likes of Beck, David Byrne, and Beirut, and the Rhythms Del Mundo all-star remix album. On October 8th, Knitting Factory Records will unveil Red Hot’s long-in-the-works Fela Kuti covers compilation, Red Hot + Fela.
The 13-track effort features a number of notable collaborations: Questlove and tUnE-yArDs on last year’s cover of “Lady”; Childish Gambino and Just A Band tackling “Who No Know Go No”; My Morning Jacket teaming with Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and tUnE-yArDs’ Merril Garbus on “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”; TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe’s reworking “Sorrow Tears and Blood”; and Chance the Rapper appearing on a rendition of “Gentleman”.
With a cast of such diverse musicians, organizers opted not to make this a simple Afrobeat album, focusing instead on having contributors emphasize other facets of Kuti’s music.
“Fela’s music has deeply inspired and impacted how we think about music,” said Stuart Bogie, whose band Superhuman Happiness tackled “ITT” and backed-up TV on the Radio. “From critical details like his use of guitars and bass lines in perfect rhythmic counterpoint, to his long and epic forms, his music is a treasure and deep reason for musicians all over the globe. One challenge was maintaining the lyrical integrity. Fela’s poetry is a critical component, and we aren’t satisfied with getting it close – we want our tracks to honor his work the same as you would honor the lyrics of a Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Prince track.”
Fela Kuti lives on. Since his death in 1997, he’s been transformed from musician’s musician with a cult-like following to a worldwide musical icon. The last four years have seen the Broadway hit FELA! win Tony Awards and tour the world, Knitting Factory Records reissue the prolific Nigerian firebrand’s back catalogue, and now, Red Hot.
Red Hot is an AIDS awareness organization currently partnering with cross-genre collaborators representing rock, hip-hop, Americana, and classical for a forthcoming album release of Fela Kuti compositions, Red Hot + Fela (Knitting Factory, October 8, 2013 ). The release includes classic Fela anthems like “Lady” recorded by tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Angelique Kidjo, and Akua Naru, “Zombie” recorded by Spoek Mathambo, Cerebral Cortex, and Frown, and “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” recorded by My Morning Jacket, Merrill Garbus (from tUnE-yArDs), and Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes) and “Sorrow, Tears & Blood” reworked by the Kronos Quartet along with TV On The Radios’ Kyp Malone and Tune Adembimpe.
Stuart Bogie, who contributed to the album’s “Sorrow Tears and Blood” and “ITT” as a member of Superhuman Happiness, represents a bridge between the early adopters of Afrobeat and the recent recruits of the genre: “Fela's music has deeply inspired and impacted how we think about music,” Bogie reflects. “From critical details like his use of guitars and bass lines in perfect rhythmic counterpoint, to his long and epic forms, his music is a treasure and deep reason for musicians all over the globe.”
Although Fela inspired each and every artist on the album, Afrobeat is not necessarily the musical meat-and-potatoes for most of these musicians, thus presenting challenging responsibilities in recreating Fela’s work. Bogie stated, “One challenge was maintaining the lyrical integrity. Fela's poetry is a critical component, and we aren't satisfied with getting it close - we want our tracks to honor his work the same as you would honor the lyrics of a Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Prince track.”
Each rendition on the album tackles each composition quite differently. Honoring the tradition of Afrobeat, “Lady” presents wailing brass and sax with funky electric guitar while other reinterpretations execute their track with more inventive deviance. For example, “No Buredi” is reimagined as an electro-house track by Nneka, Sinkane, Amayo, and Superhuman Happiness meanwhile dance-inducing R & B and hip-hop flavor “Yellow Fever” recorded by Spoek Mathambo and Zaki Ibrahim.
The partnership between KFR and Red Hot is particularly relevant to Fela Kuti, given that he died of an AIDS-related illness himself. To date, Red Hot has released 18 albums and produced several concert and film series to raise money and awareness to fight AIDs around the world. They have partnered with countless local, national, and international AIDS organizations, all of whom have benefited from releases like Red Hot + Fela.
Red Hot + Fela Tracklist:
01. “Buy Africa” – Baloji & L’Orchestre de la Katuba featuring Kuku
02. “Lady” – tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Angelique Kidjo + Akua Naru
03. “Yellow Fever” – Spoek Mathambo + Zaki Ibrahim
04. “No Buredi” – Nneka, Sinkane, Amayo + Superhuman Happiness
05. “Who No Know Go No” – Just A Band + Childish Gambino
06. “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” – My Morning Jacket w/ Merrill Garbus + Brittany Howard
07. “Sorrow Tears and Blood” – TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, Kronos Quartet + Stuart Bogie
08. “ITT” – Superhuman Happiness w/ Sahr Ngaujah, Abena Koomson + Rubblebucket
09. “Afrodisco Beat 2013″ – Tony Allen, M1 + Baloji
10. “Gentleman” – Just A Band, Bajah + Chance the Rapper
11. “Hi Life Time” – GendEr Infinity
12. “Zombie” – Spoek Mathambo + Cerebral Cortex + Frown
13. “Go Slow” – King