Jun 22, 2011

Fela Kuti - Unnecessary Begging (1976)/ J.J.D. (1977)


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.

Read the full article at allaboutjazz.com


This 1977 release consisted solely of one 22-minute song, "J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop)." It actually wasn't much different in length than most of his releases from this era (which usually contained two songs adding up to half an hour), but still made rather short value. The song was decent enough, making extensive use of a live crowd and busy hand-drummed rhythm at the beginning, then gliding into a typical (if very long) Afro-funk-jazz vamp. It's been paired with a 1976 release (with the customary two songs and half-hour of music), Unnecessary Begging, on a single-disc 2001.



A 1977 release (J.J.D) and a 1976 one (Unnecessary Begging) are paired together on this two-for-one CD reissue, one of the less remarkable ones in MCA's Fela series, though not unworthy. J.J.D. consists solely of one 22-minute song, "J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop)." It actually isn't much different in length than most of his releases from this era (which usually contained two songs adding up to half an hour), but still made rather short value. The song is decent enough, making extensive use of a live crowd and busy hand-drummed rhythm at the beginning, then gliding into a typical (if very long) Afro-funk-jazz vamp. The title track of the two-song, half-hour Unnecessary Begging has an uncommonly (for Fela) slow-burning tempo that effectively maintains its slow, moody pace as instruments drop in and out. Philosophically, Fela takes his usual stance here -- not that it's a bad one -- deploring poverty and government inadequacy. His trademark weird electric keyboards are heard near the conclusion, sounding like a warped record that's out of sync with the rest of the track. The other song, "No Buredi (No Bread)," is a bit more up-tempo and, in its favor, makes greater use of those indefinably strange keyboards, which have an extraterrestrial quality when heard at length.



Fela Kuti was a Nigerian musician, amateur afrocentric philosopher, and social and political gadfly. His songs are fascinating combinations of an American funk aesthetic and traditional Nigerian percussion, and develop at a leisurely pace but in a way that keeps you hooked. From 1975-1978, he released a flood of records, and in retrospective the songs from this period are among his most confident work. We should be thankful to Wrasse for reissuing these albums, even if they can be difficult for American customers to obtain.

"J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop)" is a scathing indictment of colonialism, a product of Fela's view that Africa was better off on its own. The music is fine mature Fela. What makes it very special, however, is its recording ambience. Fela and his band played this tune at a party at the Lagos compound where he lived, the "Kalakuta Republic", and one can hear the crowd cheering him on as he gets started. Now over thirty years after the Nigerian army destroyed the place, and a decade after Fela's death, this whole scene is gone to us, but listening to "J.J.D." gives one the slightest impression of what it must have been like. This is one of the Fela songs I return to most often. While "J.J.D." is energetic, the second track "Unnecessary Begging" offers a more cool counterpart, avoiding high peaks and falls and maintaining more or less the same groove throughout. It's entertaining enough, but I feel that the singing here isn't up to the usual standards of Fela records.

If you've never heard Fela's music before, the songs "Zombie" and "Unknown Soldier" are probably the best place to start. But all of Fela's discography is worth eventually collecting.
The J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop)/Unnecessary Begging CD, which also includes the song No Buredi (No Bread), which was the B side for the original Unnecessary Begging recording, offers classic Afrobeat music from one of the best and most prolific periods of Fela's career. J.J.D. was recorded live at Fela's Kalakuta Republic compound in Nigeria in 1977 and Unnecessary Begging/No Buredi was recorded in 1976. All three of the songs offer great, extended Afrobeat jams and the CD also provides some nice pictures, cover art work, and liner notes. An added bonus for this CD is that none of the three songs on it appear on any of the three most popular Fela compilation discs (i.e., Anthologies 1 and 2 and the alternately titled Best of the Black President/Best Best of Fela Kuti CD), each of which consists of two CDs. That's one reason to consider this particular "twofer" reissue as one of the best of the noncompilation CD's in the Fela catalogue to get. For the uninitiated, I would recommend starting with the alternately titled Best of the Black President/Best Best of Fela Kuti CD. Be forewarned, however, Fela's Afrobeat music is very addictive, and once you get a taste for it, it is highly likely that you are going to want to get a lot more.
For all the African people who border on diasporic enlightenment listen up!!This CD jests the african returnee with his "Imported mannerisms".Fela from my perspective a serious "African".Besides the melody and the rhhythms is a message about being honest,fearless and daring to be originally different.This is a must have if you know or want to know the African perspective.Juslisen if you want!!!(do you see the trick)
"JJD/Unnecessary Begging" is another gem in the Fela two-albums-on-one-CD reissue series on MCA. As original LPs, "JJD (Johnny Just Drop)," recorded live at Fela's home/club/compound, Kalakuta Republic, was released in 1977, while "Unnecessary Begging" and its b-side "No Buredi (No Bread)" were issued a year earlier 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.



Unnecessary Begging (1976)

Fela says ‘Unnecessary begging’ in area (Ghetto) rules is not done—it is not necessary. In the ghetto, if you give your word, people believe you for such words until you do otherwise. African ghetto thoughts and deeds are the traditional way of life of the people. They are based on age-long belief that: ‘words are like eggs, when they drop, they cannot be taken back—it is not necessary. However today, sings Fela, some of us in the spirit of trust believe in our governments. We go into agreement with them to provide us (the people) good houses, good roads, keep the economy buoyant. What do the people get? No government. Corruption at the highest level, etc.! With all this, there are still some academics who preach patience, ‘Intellectuals’ and ‘leaders of thought’ who try to justify the mismanagement of African lives by those in government as ‘problems of young democracies’. Fela says this is Unnecessary Begging. He calls on those in power, to beware of the day when the people will revolt against this situation. It will be a day to render accounts, there will be no room for any Unnecessary Begging.

No Buredi (No Bread): In ‘No Bread’, Fela is talking to average man on the street. To Africans. Africans throughout Diaspora. With all the sarcasm he can Muster, Fela calls the average man who has been for so long exploited to look closely at himself. ‘Look you! You are standing on the ground and your legs are shaking. Your legs are responsible because they are weak and tired from long sufferings,…you sit down like you don reach gbi! Eyes dey role, like thief him eyes…hunger dey show him power! You no get power to fight—No buredi(No Bread)’. The average man accepts all the shortfalls of the system without protesting against it. Africa, the home of the black man, is rich with all the natural and mineral resources. But it is only in Africa that man still carry the shit of the world on his head. Fela stresses the fact that everything overseas came from Africa. In conclusion, he says: the average man should stand firm now and say : Enough To! No Bread (No Money)…I don tire hen!—No Buredi! (meaning we are tired of your grants and aid packages, we are tired of No Bread—no money).

Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu


1. Unnecessary Begging
2. No Buredi (No Bread)

J.J.D. (1977)

Johnny Just Drop is talking about Africans who travel abroad only to return home with new values and mannerisms. Since the advent of colonialism in Africa, the education system left Black people with an inferior perception of their culture. Those who are Western educated, are in the habit of repeating untruths about African traditions and heritage, because the discipline to think and act big has not yet become a part of Africa’s present day academic and intellectual traditions. For example, those trained in the use of English, Spanish, German, French or Portuguese languages will argue forcefully that those are international languages in which alone science and technology can be intelligently studied. If this is true, one wonders how the ancient Black Egyptians built the pyramids or how the guild of craftsmen in Benin and other parts of the continent created the works of art produced over many centuries past. In JJD, Fela is reminding Africans travelling abroad in search of greener pastures to be proud of their original cultural values—those inherent values the JJD ‘educated’ elite have been brainwashed to despise.

Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu


1. J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop)

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