Posts Tagged ‘Fela Kuti’

Doubleshot Tuesday: The Best Of Lawrence Welk/The Best Best Of Fela Kuti

14 September 2010

[Today: Big band leaders...]


When I was a kid, Lawrence Welk was one of the banes of my existence. My Grandma Robinson absolutely loved the man, and every Saturday night like clockwork, she would fire up his television show and we’d be treated to an hour of bubbles, batons, and music for old people. Back then I didn’t know polka from Polk Salad Annie – I just knew I didn’t like the music very much, so I took every opportunity to throw out cutting remarks about the “wild dance party” we were watching, while longing for an extended cable package that included better programming. Then my grandparents moved, our routine changed, and Lawrence Welk was out of our lives for good. Hooray!

Welk went from being a standard part of my week to something less than an afterthought. From the early 80s until the mid-90s, the only time he came to mind was when I joked with my brother about polka – and even those occasions were few and very far between. Then my beloved grandmother passed away, and almost overnight my feelings about this music took an about face. Suddenly it was a living link to a sweet, departed relative, and my opinion of the man and his music immediately softened. It was no longer gag-inducing elevator music – with one funeral, Lawrence Welk morphed from a bad joke into a good memory. Now when I drop the needle on his schmaltzy big band polka music, I always feel my grandmother nearby.

On the surface, Fela Kuti is the polar opposite of Lawrence Welk: Kuti was from Nigeria, Welk from North Dakota. Kuti was a polygamist with 27 wives, while Welk was married to the same woman for 61 years. Kuti made politically-oriented music that openly challenged a repressive government, while Welk made smooth and easy, family-oriented music. Kuti’s band jammed with furious energy and wore wild costumes, while Welk’s band was upright and sedate, in their matching powder blue tuxedos. I could go on and on, but you get the point – these two definitely hang out in different sections of your local record shop.

But in ways that really matter, Kuti and Welk were more similar than you might expect. Both led massive brass-based big bands that popularized an ethnic strain of dance music, both enjoyed a following that other artists would kill for, and both toked incredible amounts of marijuana (just kidding on that last one). Both men became symbols beyond their music – Kuti as a political warrior, Welk as a throwback to simpler times. Both created a musical atmosphere that seemed to exist in its own world. Welk: “If I live to be 90, and I’m planning to, I’ll always love performing for a live audience.” Kuti: “So what is this motherfucking world about? I believe there is a plan… I will do my part – then I’ll just go, man. Just go!”

Lawrence Welk didn’t quite make 90 – he passed away on May 17th, 1992 at the age of 89. Fela Anikulapo Kuti died on August 2nd, 1997 at age 58, having done much more than his part in the struggle. I expect these two are off somewhere jamming right now, having a hell of a dance party with my late great grandma…

Listen: Bubbles In The Wine [Lawrence Welk]

Listen: Zombie [Fela Kuti]

Magic Moment: The Original Black President

19 April 2010

“Music is the weapon of the future” said the late, great Fela Kuti, and in his hands it was a formidable weapon indeed. Kuti paid the price for speaking out against a corrupt Nigerian government – he was beaten and jailed many times, and his mother was thrown to her death from a second window by members of the Nigerian Army. But as the violence against him escalated, Kuti struck back with ever more pointed songs. This is an abridged performance of ‘Army Arrangement’, a song that encourages paying lip-service to the government while working to bring it down. This clip is compiled from various performances and includes footage of people going about their business in Lagos, among an overseeing Army. Modern musicians think they’re political because they play a Rock The Vote concert – Fela Kuti put his life on the line for his beliefs…

Buried Treasure: Budos Band II

2 April 2010

[Today: Tough, bearded funk...]

Any band that offers an album credit for cowbell is on to something good, and The Budos Band more than qualifies for that distinction. They bring several brands of funk under one umbrella: the hypnotic grooves of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, the military precision of the JB’s, and the salty brass-knuckle funk of 70’s Blaxploitation soundtracks. Not bad for an all-white, 10-piece group out of Staten Island whose members all keep day jobs and full beards (their name is a truncated version of the spanish phrase for “The Bearded Ones”). Initially inspired by Brooklyn’s Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra and the funk re-issue label Desco, the bearded ones make all-instrumental funk that sounds more like 1974 than 2007.

Saxophonist Jared Tankel told the L.A. Record that “[The] initial discovery of Desco was big and then just following that train… once you get into it there’s never an ending – so we got the soul thing and the funk thing and then the Afrobeat thing and then the Ethiopian jazz thing which was huge for us.” With congas, bongos, farfisa organ and a full horn section pushed into the red, The Budos Band makes music that sits comfortably alongside that of their idols. The cover of their first album featured a photo of lava flowing from a volcano, while their second self-titled album went with a golden scorpion. Both images are appropriate visual metaphors for a band that churns out relentless, non-stop funk that’s punctuated by stinging horn blasts.

Budos Band II is throwback in all the best ways, right down to the invitation on the back of the album cover to “Join The Budos Band Fan Club” – complete with the whole self-addressed stamped envelope bit. That might be a gag, but the music is deadly serious. Album opener ‘Chicago Falcon’ is among the best pieces funk released since George Clinton’s mothership got stranded on Mars. This infectious bit of retro groove is ballsy enough that it could have served as the theme song for a 70’s TV show about tough cops who kick ass in the ghetto. They have beards of course…

Listen: Chicago Falcon

A Dozen Great Album Covers

5 October 2009

Here are a dozen (or so) LP covers that hang in frames in our music room. Where possible, click on the images to see them at a larger size…

Sweet | Off The Record
Sweet | Off The Record

Kiss | Kiss
Kiss | Kiss

Fela Kuti | Army Arrangement
Fela Kuti | Army Arrangement

Sex Pistols | God Save The Queen 12"
Sex Pistols | God Save The Queen 12″

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Are You Experienced?
Jimi Hendrix Experience | Are You Experienced?

Dick Dale | Surfer's Choice | Alternate Cover by Blaine Siegel
Dick Dale | Surfer’s Choice | Alternate Cover by Blaine Siegel

Bo Diddley | Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger
Bo Diddley | Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger

Miles Davis | Volume One
Miles Davis | Volume 1

Ray Charles | What'd I Say
Ray Charles | What’d I Say

Various Artists | The Guitars That Destroyed The World
Various Artists | The Guitars That Destroyed The World

Reverend Gary Davis | Harlem Street Singer
Reverend Gary Davis | Harlem Street Singer

New Order | Power, Corruption & Lies
New Order | Power, Corruption & Lies

Heat Wave | Too Hot To Handle
Heat Wave | Too Hot To Handle

Weekend Playlist

28 September 2009

“Love one another.” ~ George Harrison’s last words

Yim Yames | Tribute To
Yim Yames | Tribute To

The Beatles | Beatles For Sale
The Beatles | Beatles For Sale

Merle Haggard | I'm A Lonesome Fugitive
Merle Haggard | I’m A Lonesome Fugitive

The Police | Zenyatta Mondatta
The Police | Zenyatta Mondatta

Tosca | No Hassle
Tosca | No Hassle

Wynton Marsalis | Tomasi/Jolivet: Trumpet Concertos
Wynton Marsalis | Tomasi/Jolivet: Trumpet Concertos

Johnny Cash | Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous
Johnny Cash | Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous

Randy California | Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds
Randy California | Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds

Red House Painters | Songs For A Blue Guitar
Red House Painters | Songs For A Blue Guitar

Peace Orchestra | Peace Orchestra
Peace Orchestra | Peace Orchestra

Dzihan & Kamien | Live In Vienna
The dZihan & Kamien Orchestra | Live In Vienna

Propellerheads | Decksandrumsandrockandroll
Propellerheads | Decksanddrumsandrockandroll

Gang Starr | Daily Operation
Gang Starr | Daily Operation

Guns N' Roses | G N' R Lies
Guns N’ Roses | G N’ R Lies

Fela Kuti | Up Side Down
Fela Kuti | Up Side Down
[Album cover not pictured]

Bob Dylan | Highway 61 Revisited
Bob Dylan | Highway 61 Revisited

Various Artists | Woodstock
Various Artists | Woodstock

Steve Miller Band | Book Of Dreams
Steve Miller Band | Book Of Dreams

The Rolling Stones | Emotional Rescue
The Rolling Stones | Emotional Rescue

George Harrison | All Things Must Pass
George Harrison | All Things Must Pass

Weekend Playlist

26 May 2009

Long weekend, short playlist…

Lee Perry And Friends | Give Me Power
Lee Perry And Friends | Give Me Power

Lee 'Scratch' Perry | The Upsetter Box Set
Lee Perry | The Upsetter Box Set

Tosca | No Hassle
Tosca | No Hassle

Balkan Beat Box | Balkan Beat Box
Balkan Beat Box | Balkan Beat Box

Blue Mitchell | Blue's Moods
Blue Mitchell | Blue’s Moods

Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago
Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago

XTC | Drums And Wires
XTC | Drums And Wires

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings | Naturally
Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings | Naturally

The Temptations | Anthology
The Temptations | Anthology

The Meters | Rejuvenation
The Meters | Rejuvenation

Calexico | The Black Light
Calexico | The Black Light

Stereo MC's | Connected
Stereo MC’s | Connected

Fela Kuti | Up Side Down
Fela Anikulapo Kuti & The Africa 70 | Up Side Down
[Album cover not pictured]

Dire Straits | Dire Straits
Dire Straits | Dire Straits

J.J. Cale | #8
J.J. Cale | #8

Talking Heads | Fear Of Music
Talking Heads | Fear Of Music

The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

Melvin Jackson | Funky Skull
Melvin Jackson | Funky Skull

Tim Buckley | Greetings From L.A.
Tim Buckley | Greetings From L.A.

Wynton Marsalis | Baroque Music For Trumpets
Wynton Marsalis | Baroque Music For Trumpets

George Brigman | Jungle Rot
George Brigman | Jungle Rot

Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti
Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti

The Kleptones | A Night At The Hip Hopera
The Kleptones | A Night At The Hip Hopera

Rushmore | Soundtrack
Rushmore | Soundtrack

The Beatles | Rubber Soul
The Beatles | Rubber Soul

Ike Turner | A Black Man's Soul
Ike Turner | A Black Man’s Soul

Steely Dan | Can't Buy A Thrill
Steely Dan | Can’t Buy A Thrill

Clarence Carter | Testifyin'
Clarence Carter | Testifyin’

The Baker’s Dozen: 13 Marijuana-Friendly Albums

20 April 2009

In honor of 4/20, here’s a list of albums that carry the distinctly dank smell of ganja…

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Catch A Fire
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Catch A Fire – Doobie brother!

Listen: Slave Driver

Dr. Dre | The Chronic
Dr. Dre | The Chronic – Dusty P-Funk samples + Snoop Dogg + badass album title = iconic ganja classic

Listen: Nuthin’ But A G Thang

Peter Tosh | Legalize It
Peter Tosh | Legalize It – “Legalize it, and I will advertise it” Peter Tosh offered in the title track of this 1976 album. And the tune and album both remain first-rate ads for the product…

Listen: Legalize It

Cypress Hill | Cypress Hill
Cypress Hill | Cypress Hill – One of the first hip-hop groups to openly and repeatedly rhyme about getting baked, Cypress Hill combine a fascination with guns and an undying love of bongs.

Listen: Light Another

Black Sabbath | Master Of Reality
Black Sabbath | Master Of Reality – This album begins with the sounds of a pot smoker coughing – the opening strains of pot ode ‘Sweet Leaf’ – but the whole album sounds like it was conceived inside a hash pipe.

Listen: Sweet Leaf

Various Artists | Reefer Songs: 16 Jazz Classics

Various Artists | Reefer Songs: 16 Original Jazz Classics – ‘Sweet Marijuana Brown’ ‘Weed Smokers Dream’ and ‘Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine’ are but three of the entertaining tunes on this compilation of Jazz from the 30s that proves heads have been at it since before your grandparents were in short pants.

Listen: [No MP3 available]

Sublime | 40 Oz. To Freedom
Sublime | 40 Oz. To Freedom – Sublime was part punk, part reggae, part funk, and their amped cover of The Toys’ ‘Smoke Two Joints’ is just one of many weed-friendly moments on their excellent debut album.

Listen: Smoke Two Joints

The Black Crowes | Amorica
The Black Crowes | Amorica – This album isn’t about pot per se, but since the early 90s The Crowes have been some of the strongest marijuana advocates on the rock scene.

Listen: High Head Blues

Various Artists | How High Soundtrack
Various Artists | How High Soundtrack – Method Man and Redman star in the movie, and take center stage on this hilarious, smoke-filled soundtrack.

Listen: How To Roll A Blunt

Fela Kuti | Zombie
Fela Kuti | Zombie – Fela Kuti smoked copious amounts of grass onstage, and his music is perfect for the activity, with deep, repetitive rhythms wrapped in black magic.

Listen: Zombie

Pink Floyd | Dark Side Of The Moon
Pink Floyd | Dark Side Of The Moon – Three generations of pot smokers have worn the shine off their bongs with this dense, heady masterpiece…

Listen: Speak To Me/Breathe

Cheech & Chong | Cheech & Chong's Greatest Hit
Cheech & Chong | Cheech & Chong’s Greatest Hit – The original spokesmen…

Listen: Let’s Make A Dope Deal

Various Artists | Hempilation
Various Artists | Hempilation – This NORML-sponsored compilation advocating the legalization of pot features The Black Crowes, Cypress Hill, Sublime, and more.

Listen: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 [The Black Crowes]

Weekend Playlist

20 April 2009

Here’s a sampling of some of the music The P and I got into over the weekend…

Various Artists | Superfly Soul
Various Artists | Superfly Soul

Chet Baker | In Paris: The Barclay Sessions 1955-1956
Chet Baker | In Paris: Barclay Sessions 1955-1956

Peter Tosh | Equal Rights
Peter Tosh | Equal Rights

Brazilian Girls | Brazilian Girls
Brazilian Girls | Brazilian Girls

ESG | A South Bronx Story
ESG | A South Bronx Story

Simon And Garfunkel | Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon And Garfunkel | Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bonniwell Music Machine | Ignition
Bonniwell Music Machine | Ignition

Fela Kuti
Fela Anikulapo Kuti & The Africa 70 | Up Side Down
[cover not pictured]

The Black Keys | Thickfreakness
The Black Keys | Thickfreakness

The Cars | Greatest Hits
The Cars | Greatest Hits

Steve Earle | Washington Square Serenade
Steve Earle | Washington Square Serenade

Dillard & Clark | The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark
Dillard & Clark | The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark

Lee Dorsey | Yes We Can
Lee Dorsey | Yes We Can

Tony Joe White | Tony Joe
Tony Joe White | Tony Joe

Babe Ruth | First Base
Babe Ruth | First Base

HP Lovecraft | HP Lovecraft
HP Lovecraft | HP Lovecraft

The Meters | Look-Ka Py Py
The Meters | Look-Ka Py Py

The Clash | Live At Shea Stadium
The Clash | Live At Shea Stadium

Atmosphere | Seven's Travels
Atmosphere | Seven’s Travels

Nas | Illmatic
Nas | Illmatic

Masterpiece: Zombie

7 April 2008

[Today: Fela Kuti fights the good fight...]

Fela Kuti | Zombie

Nigerian-born Fela Anikulapo Kuti was the inventor of AfroBeat and a political agitator of some repute. Kuti’s music features extended jams filled with jabbing horns, percolating percussion, call-and-response chanting with backup singers, and lyrics focusing on governmental corruption. He combined the uncompromising political stance of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers with the international charisma of Bob Marley, while wailing on his saxophone and guiding his band, Afrika ’70, like a musical shaman.

An outspoken critic of African dictators and state policies, Kuti was a frequent target of shakedowns by the Nigerian government. But rather than back down, Kuti intensified his attacks, culminating with his 1977 album Zombie. The title track, which takes up all of side one, compares the Nigerian military to a pack of mindless zombies. “Zombie no go think, unless you tell ‘im to think” Kuti sings, before closing the song with fake marching orders (“Fall In/Fall Out/Fall Down”) that openly mock military conventions.

The Nigerian government was not amused, and struck back with force. Kuti’s personal compound was raided by more than 1,000 soldiers, who beat every man, woman and child on the premises. Soldiers threw Kuti’s mother to her death from a second story window, and beat Kuti himself within an inch of his life. But still the great musician would not back down. He had his mother’s coffin delivered to Nigerian military headquarters, and based his next album, Coffin For Head Of State, on those events.

It’s no coincidence that Kuti was known as ‘The Black President’ – he was a beloved figure in Africa and rebel of the highest order. He married 27 women in a single ceremony, smoked copious amounts of marijuana on stage and in public, and often performed clad in nothing but his underwear, but Fela Kuti will always be remembered for his outspoken struggles on behalf of equality and justice. It’s a tribute to the power of his music that those odd footnotes don’t even come close to overshadowing a dynamic musical and political legacy.

Listen: Zombie

Free Wheelin': A Dozen Great Road Trip Albums

5 February 2008

JB over at EyeEatMusic has written up her top five ‘road trip’ albums, and I just couldn’t resist chiming in with my own list on the subject. I’m not sure if there’s a better purpose for great music than providing the atmosphere for an escape to somewhere far, far away. Here are 12 albums that were made for a fast car, a worthwhile destination, and an open stretch of highway…

Doors - album
The Doors * L.A. Woman ~ The title track alone makes this a tremendous album for the road – it’s the rock and roll equivalent of riding in a convertible with the wind blowing in your hair as you speed towards the apocalypse.

X - album
X * Beyond & Back: The X Anthology ~ Another important Los Angeles band that made essential music for the open road. X fused the energy of early rock & roll with the sneer of punk, a driving back beat, and tales of love and death. What more could you ask for?

Exile On Coldharbour Lane
Alabama 3 * Exile On Coldharbour Lane ~ ‘Woke Up This Morning’ was featured in the opening credits for The Sopranos, and this album boasts many other fine songs as well. You just can’t help but feel as tough as Tony Soprano when your hand’s on the wheel and this one’s in the deck.

Red Meat - album
Red Meat * Meet Red Meat ~ Red Meat makes the right kind of music for keeping the mood light. It’s genuine country, played for laughs, and there are plenty of good punch lines here. Fantastic songs, too – ’14 Hours To Tulsa’ is one of the best driving songs ever laid down.

Fania/Gilles Peterson - album
Gilles Peterson * Fania DJ Series ~ Noted British DJ Gilles Peterson selects two discs worth of his favorite tracks from the recent flurry of Fania re-issues. It’s an album of scorching latin salsa/funk/boogaloo that is ideally paced for a nice long drive.

MMJ - album
My Morning Jacket * It Still Moves ~ This is one of my favorite albums for the journey over the Bay Bridge and into San Francisco. The first half dozen songs are just the right speed and mood for a night drive. Or, as Jim James puts it, “Dancefloors, headlights, in my blood there’s gasoline.”

Josh Ritter - album
Josh Ritter * Golden Age Of Radio ~ Josh Ritter is the great plains version of Nick Drake, and this album is a different kind of soundtrack for an outing in the automobile. It’s longing, wistful, and gorgeous – in other words, the proper music for your very own VW commercial.

QOTSA - album
Queens Of The Stone Age * Songs For The Deaf ~ Yep, every trip needs a little head-bangin’ and this album will do just fine (but feel free to insert your favorite AC/DC, Zeppelin, or Motorhead album here). QOTSA put it all together here – the addition of Mark Lanegan on some vocal tracks and Dave Grohl on drums were brilliant moves that paid off in an epic album.

Double Nickels On The Dime
Minutemen * Double Nickels On The Dime ~ This album is loosely dedicated to the concept of driving – it opens and closes with the sound of car engines revving. Loaded with excellent songs that are all over the stylistic map, Double Nickels On The Dime plays out like a carefully selected mix tape. If I had to narrow this list to just a single album, this would be it.

Groove Armada - album
Groove Armada * Love Box ~ This Electronica/Hip-Hop hybrid is an instant jolt of adrenaline and features a non-stop mix of joyous party tunes that will have you traveling in beats per minute instead of miles per hour.

Anyway The Wind Blows
J.J. Cale * Anyway The Wind Blows: The Anthology ~ Cooler than cool. J.J. Cale plays down home country blues/folk/whathaveyou that sound like a shrug and a cloud of dust. ‘Call Me The Breeze’ is one of the all-time travel tunes, and it’s matched here by a number of tumbleweed classics.

Fela Kuti - album
Fela Kuti * The Best Best Of Fela Kuti ~ Afrobeat is the definition of propulsive, and Fela Kuti is the King of Afrobeat. Does that mean Fela Kuti is the King of Propulsion?? You better believe it does…

*****

[To see my 13 runners-up, please check the comments section here.]


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