Masekela!

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Masekela continues on with the revolucionary African music theme. The back of the record says it all ‘The music contained herein speaks for itself. Nothing more need be added. All there remains to do is to do.’ There are so many strong stongs on this record. It starts with Mace and Grenades, which talks about the harsh realities of the times (1968) and says ‘It looks like It’s be safer to be in Jail…I’m in jail out here’. ‘Gold’, which you already heard on Bobbito’s mix cd, is about the oppression during the apartheid, and how South Africans are essentially forced into slave labor mining for gold and diamonds, and see nothing in return. Even the instrumentals have incredible titles…’Blues for Huey (Newton), and Riot. The record ends with the incredible. ‘If There’s Anybody Out There’.

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BBE just released ‘The Chisa Years (Rare and Unreleased 1965-1975)’. I can’t recomend it enough. If you don’t know BBE(Barely Breaking Even) is an ill label out of London, and they’ve been putting out solid releases for a minute, so support them! They’re selling the cd for 5 pounds, or you can get it on itunes, or of course on vinyl. When this came out over a year ago, Wax Poetics hosted a remix competition for the song Mahlalela, and of course, being a trumpet player who does remixes, I did one. It didn’t get picked…I like to think that it’s because they didn’t get it in time. (I sent it the night before the cutoff day, went to sleep, woke up to see that it didn’t get sent. So I wrote a letter, re-sent it sucessfully, but never heard from them.) Either way, I play it out on a regular, and I always get people running to the dj booth ‘Where’d you get this remix?!’ So here it is…

Hugh Masekela was close with Fela, and he actually wrote ‘Fela’ in tribute to him. The two were very similar in many ways. Hugh was exiled from South Africa in 1960 during the Apartheid for 30 years, along with many other musicians from South Africa. (Among them his wife, Miriam Makeba) There is an incredible documentary that I urge all of you to check out called ‘Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony’.

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In short, it talks about how music was instrumental (excuse the pun) in lifting the Apartheid. In one point of the film, they actually talk about how they weren’t able to post notices around town or announcements with directions to the next protest/demonstration. So they would actually sing in Zulu the directions to the protest, and the song would get sung throughout the country. The British had no idea what they were singing, and this was one way that they would communicate. Many of the musicians would regularly visit and write to Nelson Mandela while he was in prison and write lyrics based on that. This is one of the reasons so many musicians were exiled. Years later Masekela wrote ‘Bring him back home’ and was the anthem of the Free Nelson Mandela Movement in the 80’s. There were a ton of other huge songs written for him as well such as The Specials ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’, among many more. It became a trend in the 80’s and all the songs, tribute concerts, and press shined a huge spotlight on what England was doing. It essentially shamed them into lifting the apartheid. Hopefully this model, now being used to shine a light on the genocide in Sudan, will continue to work. (A huge Sudan post is coming, don’t worry)
It is a perfect example on how music is, as Fela said ‘The Weapon’.

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Movement of the People

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and finally…the fourth and final box set! It starts out with Kalakuta Show. Yet another story about his constant battles with the Nigerian police. He dubbed the most recent attack on he and the republic the ‘Kalakuta Show’. The back cover has actual photos of the attack, and a close up of Fela’s head wound that he recieved from it. To make matters worse, Fela recorded the hit Zombie, which was a metaphor for the Nigerian Soldiers, who are dead inside, and just do what the government tells them to do. In the song he commands the soldiers “Attention! Double up! Fall In! Fall out! Fall down! Get ready!” with his queens chanting Zooommmbiiii….throughout. This one become such a hit at the time (1977) that the people would walk by a soldier and flash a blank stare and say ‘Zombie’. This angered them so much, they went all out on what was to be the most vicious attack on the Kalakuta Republic. Zombie is what egged them on to send in over 1000 soldiers, severely beat everyone, raped the women, through Fela’s mother out the window causing fatal damages, nearly beat Fela to death, burned the entire Republic down, and threw everyone in jail. Never underestimate the power of music! Masters At Work also did a version of this a few years back…and it still wrecks the dancefloor. Lucky you…I included it in the zombie download.

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also note, that in addition to having all the album artwork added (just click on the arrow above the artwork once it’s added into itunes and you will see the front and back cover, etc….) I also included the lyrics so when you load up the track in itunes, click on the track and apple and the letter i and then on the tab lyrics, and you will see them. I will do this when possible for all future downloads.

‘Brothers and Sisters…The secret to life, is to have no fear. We all have to understand that’ Fear Not For Man was his call to all his fellow Nigerians who were afraid of resisting oppression by the government. The b-side, Palm Wine Sound features trumpeter Lester Bowie of The Art Ensemble of Chicago. Bowie lived with Fela for 3 months in 1977 and recorded with him on this one, and an incredible solo on Dog Eat Dog, on the 4th album in this set No Agreement. ‘No Agreement today….No Agreement tomorrow’

Shuffering & Shmiling is his rant on all the colonial religions dividing the country, and behaving hypocritically…stealing, killing, and oppressing the people, etc… He continues with this theme in his elegy for his mother, Coffin For Head of State, denouncing the corrosive effect of Christian and Muslim influence on African life and takes to task the leaders that perpetuate the “Bad bad bad things/Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” After his mother died after her fatal damages that she recieved from the Nigerian military under Christian President Obasanjo, Fela and 57 others laid a coffin on the steps of Obasanjo’s Dodan Barracks, the headquarters of the military government.

So there it is. All 4 box sets in their entirety! 24 Albums in total. Easily the greatest collection of bathroom break records in history. (You dj’s out there know what I mean) Fela recorded 77 albums in his highly prolific career, and while these records are some of his best, there are many many more equally as good as these. I encourage all of you who happen to have any of the others to post a link to them in the comments section.

His legacy lives on through his sons, Femi, who still runs The Shrine in Lagos just recently played Central Park for the 3rd time, and is currently on tour. His brother Seun is also doing his thing. Tony Allen, his drummer since ’69, continues to record and collaborate with tons of people, and still puts out incredible records. Check out his last release on Damon Alburn’s (Blur) label Honest Jons. There has also been a whole slew of new afro-funk bands that are directly influenced by Fela… Check out Antibalas, Wunmi(who sang on that MAW version of Zombie) and the links on Afrofunk Forum for a ton more…

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Here’s a collection of all the album artwork for these 4 boxsets. It isn’t all of them, but most, and the ones that I did scan have both the front and back covers, as well as the inserts. If you want the postcards then you will have to go to the previous post. The same goes for the Booklet that is part of the first set. You can get that in the Music is the Weapon post.

King Of Afrobeat

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‘Let’s start…what we have come in the room to do…’ this 3rd set kicks off with the Live! With Ginger Baker record. Ginger, if you didn’t know, he gained his fame from playing with Cream and later Blind Faith. He sat in on this record (with Tony Allen) and was the start of a long friendship between he and Fela. He eventually built the 16-track ARC Studios in Ikeja (the area of Lagos where the Kalakuta Republic is).

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Next, is Roforofo Fight. Trevor Schoonmaker, who started the Fela Project and put together a great book called ‘Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway’ (which is a collection of essays from people who were either influenced by Fela or were close to him personally), and ‘Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti‘ translated this song perfectly.

‘Fela sings about a very angry friend who, against all the demonstrations of his colleagues, engages in a nasty brawl in a pool of mud with an unspecified assailant. Consequently, the mud (roforofo) claims both assailant and defender as the two brawlers come to “look like twins,” their spearate identities indistinguishable in their grotesque, muddied appearance.’

The flip is nice too, Go Slow is a fitting 17 minute complaint about the traffic in Lagos. Zero G just put up the cd re-issue of this that also has an extra 4 songs. (I’ve included them in this download as well) One of which is ‘Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am’ which is hands down Fela’s most beautiful song. It’s about the daily struggles, and how society lacks compassion, and will kick someone when they are down. Baaba Maal and Taj Mahal did an incredible cover of this on the Red, Hot, and Riot record a few years back. If you don’t own that record yet, you’re sleeping (its been 5 years now!). The Red Hot orginization has donated 7 million to AIDS relief around the world, so no…I’m not going to post it. I’m just going to give you that one song to give you an idea of how incredible it is. So if you haven’t done so already…go buy it!

Next, is the lp Alagbon Close, which is the Lagos headquarters of the federal government. The lyrical melody on this one is one of his strongest. The lyrics themselves are an angry discourse of all the goings on in the Alagbon Close. He Miss Road is a nice break…much more atmospheric and relaxed than the others…

Everything Scatter re-tells what happens when the police come into the Kalakuta Republic, and the b-side ‘Who No Know Go Know’ is his call for African Unity. The last record in this set is Ikoyi Blindness. This marks the end of Fela ‘Ransome’ Kuti and the beginning of Fela ‘Anikulapo’ Kuti. He said that Ransome was a slave name, and so he changed it to Anikulapo which means “he who carries death in his pouch”. He believed that he could not be killed, and also that because he is selfless with his music and plays it for all humanity that he actually gets younger.

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Black President

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Now…the second Fela box set in it’s entirety! This one is the rarest and hardest to find. I’ve been looking for this one for awhile now, and still haven’t found it. If anyone out there has it, and wants to sell it to me, hit me up! So, since I don’t actually own this, I put it together through downloads. Unfortunatly half of it is only at 128kbps. I also don’t have the back of the cover art like I do for the other 3 box sets. I appologize. If I end up finding it I will re-up with the higher bit rate. However, this music transends all of that, and you immediately forget about any slight loss of fidelity.

The first lp in this set is Shakara, an early classic. The second is Expensive Shit…where he re-tells teh story about when the police came to his house with a warrant and then planted a joint on him so they could lock him up. He wisely swallowed it, and they took him in, locked him up and waited for him to take a shit so they could inspect it and lock him up for a long time when they find that it contains thc. Fela was one step ahead though, and he gave them another inmates feces and was freed. The flip is Water No Get Enemy, which at first, I thought it was about the fact that 95% of the people in Lagos don’t have any clean drinking water, due to contamination from all the oil companies, but when you listen to the lyrics closer he uses water as a metaphor for the Nigeria’s common people, talking about the people as being the life and flow of the country of which, without it you can’t survive. The next is Monkey Banana… where he says simply, ‘Before I jump like monkey, give me banana’. Then into Na Poi, and then the epic Sorrow, Tears, and Blood which was written after the famous police raid of 1000 officers who burned the whole Kalakuta Republic, beat everyone almost to death, his mother thrown out of the window and incidently killed her, and threw Fela in jail. The b-side Colonial Mentality is another classic political song…’You done be slave man before, Them done release you now but you…Never release yourself…colonial mentality’. The last record in this set is Authority Stealing, where he compairs the petty street crimes of the citizens and their lengthy jail sentences, to the much larger crimes that the government officials commit without punishment. Unfortunately this song is timeless, and is true not only in Nigeria but of the US and most other countries…

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In each box set there are 6 postcards of images of his ‘Queens’ or wives… many of which performed with him on stage either by singing or dancing. Here is all 18 of them (minus the ones from the second box set).

Music Is The Weapon

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Squinting? Click on this link to see it blown up

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Here it is! The first of a series of posts that will include all 4 limited edition box sets that Barclay put out a few years back that has since been out of print, of hands down the greatest revolucionary musician to come out of Africa. If you didn’t act fast a few years back, you might have a hard time finding these now. Each volume has 6 remastered records, 6 color postcards of his ‘queens’ , and the first volume comes with a 10 page 12″ booklet which I have scanned and you can download it here. Most of these records have been re-issued, but it can still take some serious amount of time (and $) to track them down. I’m assuming most of you know Fela, but I’m still continually suprised at how many people have no idea who he was. If you don’t know, he was an Nigerian musician who played stretched out endless grooves that would last at times hours. He formed an autonomous commune that he named the Kalakuta Republic and declared it independant of the Nigerian government, which was a trigger happy puppet dictatorship put in power by all the multi-national oil companies, of which would hire local Nigerians to literally machine gun anyone down who was in opposition. Fela lived his life speaking out against all the attrocities that the Nigerian government committed, and set up a nightclub called Afro-spot and then The Shrine in which he performed on a regular basis. The Shrine also was a hub for the community and was a learning center on everything from the Yoruba religion to politics. He was considered public enemy # 1 by the Nigerian government, and they did everything in their power to stop him. They arrested him on any charge they could, invaded the Kalakuta Republic with 1000 soldiers burning it all down(including his recording studio and tons of master tapes), threw his mother out of a window causing fatal injuries, and beat him almost to death and imprisoned him countless times. Stirring up more controversy, he married 27 women at one time, who he called ‘Fela’s Queens’. Most of them sang and danced for him. The Fela vs. State conflict only worsened over time and, he eventually created his own political party called M.O.P. Movement of the People and ran for presidency unsuccessfully. Even with all of these struggles, he was incredibly prolific and has left behind a huge musical legacy. There is a great documentary called Music Is The Weapon, that has some incredible footage, and gives an in more depth view on his life. (that link is the full 52 minute documentary in quicktime format ready for your ipod/itunes)

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These are the 6 albums that are included in the first box set. Open And Close, Gentleman, and the anthemic Upside Down featuring Sandra Akane Isidore (the woman who introduced Fela to The Black Panthers in ’69) are up. Now Yellow Fever, J.J.D., and I.T.T. are up. All the files have the full album artwork embedded, so when you add it to your itunes it will already show up. I do this for every record I post, and with this box set I’ve also embedded the full booklet at high resolution so you can blow it up and read it. There has been quite a few blogs that have posted other Fela records. So, until I get the rest uploaded, check them out. The one that seems to have the most Fela is Oufar Khan. He’s got Shakara, Confusion, Afro-Desiac, Music of Many Colors with Roy Ayers, No Agreement, Expensive Shit, He Miss Road, etc… Metrobase has the Ginger Baker record as well as the incredible Nigeria 70′ comp. I’m sure there is more, if anyone knows of any please post a link in the comments.

Un Verano En N.Y. !!!

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it’s officially summer now… and what better song to put into rotation than this one. Un Verano En N.Y. is a classic by El Gran Combo De Puerto Rico, recorded in 1975 just a couple years after they opened for Fania All-Stars at Yankee Stadium in front of 50,000 people. Here is the full length!

y mas de la Sol de Musica Latina!

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Lucumi Macumba Voodoo is one of my favorite covers of all time. With all the Orisha’s represented on her neck, ¿Revolucion, No? has now been officially blessed! As you can imagine the percussion on this one is incredible. Eddie enlisted the best…Dom Um Ramao, Francisco Aguabella, and on trumpets he’s got Chocolate, Faddis, Lew Soloff… this record is as beautiful as the cover!

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and again, Mike at Orgy In Rhythm came through with the Justicia! record. This is the lead in record to the Harlem River Drive records, and is the first step into his more socially conscious stage of his career.

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also check out the new latin music blog Pepanito. He’s posted Sueno and he’s also got quite a few other nice records, and it seems more to come…looks promising.