Koola Lobitos (with Fela Kuti) – “It’s Highlife Time”

Fela Kuti “Expensive S**t” (1974) — Lyrics — Pitchfork review of re-released album

“The album’s centerpiece, lead-off and title track was undoubtedly one of the most influential tracks to the Afro-beat movement, and to artists like the Talking Heads, who experimented with similar tribal rhythms on Fear of Music and their landmark album, 1980’s Remain in Light. Its complex, bongo-centric percussion is tempered with funk guitar, discordant piano, and brass eruptions. And when, six minutes into the semi-improvisational, instrumental jam, Kuti awakens with a yowl and begins his political rant, he changes music forever.”

“Zombie” (1977) — Background information

“The album was a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. The album was a smash hit with the people and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic (a commune that Fela had established in Nigeria), during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Kuti was severely beaten, and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries…Kuti’s response to the attack was to deliver his mother’s coffin to the main army barrack in Lagos and write two songs, “Coffin for Head of State” and “Unknown Soldier”, referencing the official inquiry that claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier…[1978] was also marked by two notorious concerts, the first in Accra in which riots broke out during the song “Zombie,” which led to Kuti being banned from entering Ghana. The second was at the Berlin Jazz Festival after which most of Kuti’s musicians deserted him, due to rumors that Kuti was planning to use the entirety of the proceeds to fund his presidential campaign.”

“Mr. Grammarticologylisationalism Is The Boss” (1976)  — Fela’s meditation on language and power — Lyrics

“Sorrow, Tears & Blood” (1977) — Lyrics

“Shuffering And Shmiling” (1978) — Lyrics

“International Thief Thief (ITT) Part 2” (1980) — Lyrics


Musical influences on Afro-beat

The Fela Kuti-James Brown connection


SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL on a few major Afropop artists we didn’t have time to cover in class:

Manu Dibango (Cameroon) — Short Bio — His best-known song “Soul Makossa” — Reception of the song — “Soul Makossa” and the birth of disco —  Interpolated by Michael Jackson in the coda to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” (1982) — A New Yorker piece describes how Dibango had to seek credit, and financial reward, for both “Wanna Be Startin’ Sometin'” and Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” which interpolated Jackson’s interpolation (the article was published shortly after Jackson’s death).

Youssou N’Dour (Senegal) — Allmusic bio — His song “Set” from the 1990 album of the same name (translation of lyrics) inspired a social and artistic movement known as Set-Setal (see the 7th paragraph for explanation) — N’Dour pursues a new direction on his album Egypt (2004) seen here in a live performance — Youssou N’Dour has just announced he will abandon music to enter politics and, it is speculated, run for president of Senegal.

Ali Farka Toure (Mali) — Allmusic bio — Performing “Diaraby” from Talking Timbuktu (1994)

Angélique Kidjo (Benin/Paris) — Allmusic bio — Performance of “Agolo” from 2005