Friday, May 2, 2008


I have resisted the temptation to turn this blog into the sort of personal diary that some bloggers favour...thats ok its up to them..I suppose because of the political nature of the title, the bulk of the articles have hitherto had a political flavour.
But I am breaking with that tradition for this post to pay sincere tribute to the late great Nigerian afro-beat musician Fela Kuti for contributing enormously for being my constant and much loved companion on ny return to fitness since September last. I realised in August last year whilst climbing the Great Wall of China, as one does, in sweltering heat that I was about three stone overweight. That experience made it clear to me that it was getting beyond the point of being able to simply deny the evidence of my own eyes.In September I set about altering diet and doing some regular gym based exercise. The results have been most pleasing, I am now a svelte 13 stone, having previously been over 16 stone. Where does Fela Kuti come in? Well, gym based aerobic exercise,(I favour the rowing machine and the cross trainer torture engines), is ok....but on a regular basis it is incredibly boring, and the gym I go to has TV3's diet of reality makeover and celebrity shows on permanently, which is enough to sap the will to live.I needed something that would consistently motivate and hypnotise me into rhthmic and intense exercise.
Fela Kuti's music fitted the bill perfectly. I found that listening to the wonderful charged music of Fela Kuti was just amazingly good for exercise, the tracks are long and provide a powerful and intelligent backing sound to exercise. Furthermore, and this surely is testimony to the sheer quality of Fela's music, it stands endless repetition...tracks such as ODOO, the anti-imperialist 'ITT' and 'Coffin for a Head of State' amazingly sound as good after 9 months of repeated listening as they did at the beginning of this exercise odyssey.
Fela Kuti was born on October 15, 1938 in Abeokuta, Nigeria, to parents who were political activists. His mother was a feminist and anti-colonialist, and his father was active in the Nigerian teachers' union. Fela Kuti died in 1997 of AIDS.
In 1958, Fela Kuti moved to London, where he began studying music. He soon formed a group called Koola Lobitos, which was later renamed Nigeria 70. They played a kind of music which Fela named "Afrobeat", which was American jazz, pop and funk blended with West African highlife music.Fela Kuti was a gifted multi-instrumentalist, playing, among other things, saxophone, keyboards, trumpet, drums and guitar. He was also a talented singer and a highly energetic live performer. His lengthy songs (most were over 10 minutes long) were backed up by a consistent groove of drums and bass, a style which heavily influenced the genre of hip-hop.The first video below is of a part of 'Army Arrangement' a satirical attack on the politically corrupt intervention of the Nigerian army into the countries political life.

In 1961, Fela Kuti married Remilekun Taylor. They had three children, Femi, Yeni and Sola. Femi Kuti went on to become a well-known Afrobeat musician in his own right. Later in his life, Fela would become a strong believer in polygamy, and married dozens of women.Many of whom appeared on stage with him as part of his huge ensemble of musicians and dancers. Fela despite a prodigous marijuana intake, was a disciplined musical arranger, and it is obvious the more one listens to his music, that the sound has been achieved only after intensive rehearsal and repetition, it is just too crisp and tight to be ONLY the exuberant spontaneity that it appears to be at first listening. No, its power and intensity is derived in no small part from the perfect timing of the interactions between musicians, vocalists, and chorus singers, a tightness that could only be achieved by intense rehearsal and discipline.The clips reproduced below have no video but have a higher audio quality and sample 'Lady' a tribute to African women, and 'Water No Get Enemy'.

Fela Kuti was a major activist for Pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism, and because of his socialist beliefs, had many run-ins with the authorities of several African countries. His struggles made him a veritable icon of the Black Power movement. Fela Kuti attempted to run for Nigerian President several times, but was never allowed to.
Fela Kuti died of complications from AIDS in 1997 in Lagos, Nigeria.
This musician is in my opinion the creator of some of the greatest music of the 20th century I strongly recommend readers who have not heard his music before, seek him out, he can change and perhaps even save your life..:))


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Anonymous said...

Absolutely. I am the same with 2 hour walks to keep my weight down that is so boring without music. I have Fela's box set and walking I can give him my concentration without concentrating and truly HEAR and get inside this giant musical genius. Agree with you! !

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