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Fela Kuti

London Scene

Fela Kuti London Scene
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Fela’s London Scene, released in 1972, is another top-notch affair, made with a smaller band but one that punches above its weight. There is no tenor guitarist and no call-and-response choir, though sing-along vocals are a feature of “Egbe Mi O” (“please carry me”). Throughout, Fela’s electric piano is gym-ripped and razor sharp, and Igo Chico turns in three stirring tenor solos. “Buy Africa,” written in 1970, was one of Fela’s first politically-informed songs. The lyric was written in support of a government campaign to encourage local industry. At this point, Fela remained open to accommodation with the state, on occasions when he deemed it to be in the Nigerian and pan-African interest. He even invited government sponsorship for “Buy Africa,” but was rudely rebuffed by the politician he approached with the idea. The incident proved to be an important moment in shaping Fela’s future relationship with the authorities. From 1972, he would no longer release accommodationist songs. From there on in, he would identify the status quo as the fundamental problem—a problem that could not be solved by government campaigns, but only by the complete overhaul, if not overthrow, of the government itself. “J’Ehin J’Ehin” (“eat teeth eat teeth”) is along similar lyric lines as “Shakara.” This time Fela is lampooning people who are so greedy that they eat their own teeth. (A more amiable Yoruba expression describes people who are so hungry that once they have finished their food they eat the plate). In “Who’re You,” Fela channels James Brown’s vocal style over an angular funk groove. “Fight To Finish” draws on Yoruba folklore to offer advice: once you have started something, be prepared to finish it.
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