Posts Tagged ‘fela kuti’

Get up, stand up! Music of resistance and revolution

Posted on January 24th, 2017 in Features, Recent posts by .


Trump’s to blame. Or at least, he’s one of the reasons why we’re devoting the latest issue to the power of music and its ability to unite rather than divide people. The music we cover in Songlines is often far more than pure entertainment. Yes, it can make you smile, want to dance, or reduce you to tears. But there’s also a galvanising force about music that means it can be used as a powerful weapon in political and social activism – precisely why oppressive regimes tend to ban or censor it.

This month on the Songlines website we’ll be championing and celebrating those musicians who have stuck their necks out and sung out about social injustices, crimes and civil rights. We’ve gathered together several classic features from the Songlines archive that shine a light on a few of today’s most compelling voices of resistance. The revolution begins here!



The Western Sahara has been the subject of  dispute for many decades. One of its most eloquent activists and singers, Aziza Brahim, talks to Violeta Ruano about life in exile and how music and politics are inseparable.

Read: ‘Aziza Brahim – voice of the resistance’



Only the bravest artists take on the biggest enemies. Chris Moss singles out the main role models for today’s young, wannabe revolutionary musicians.

Read: ‘Essential 10: protest singers’



Nigel Williamson introduces Fela Kuti – a true original: ‘Never have life, politics, art and music been so inextricably linked together in one incendiary, insurrectionary and highly danceable package’.

Read: ‘Fela Kuti – a beginner’s guide’



In Burkina Faso music is at the heart of a movement that last year chased an autocrat from power. Bram Posthumus finds out how hip-hop artist and activist Smockey used rap and reggae to change the country’s political course.

Read: ‘Smockey and the rap revolution’



Two pivotal anniversaries in democratic history have been marked in a song project called Sweet Liberties. Julian May gets a history lesson from singers Maz O’Connor, Nancy Kerr and Martyn Joseph.

Read: ‘Sweet Liberties – the voices of democracy’



Canada’s most famous Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq, has been stunning audiences since first collaborating with Björk. Marc Fournier witnesses the unforgettable live experience and finds out about her revolutionary ideals.

Read: Tanya Tagaq – Polar Storm’



The current turmoil in Ukraine is providing a fertile ground for some of the country’s musicians. Peter Culshaw travels to Kiev, the stricken capital, and talks to DakhaBrakha, one of the leading players.

Read: ‘DakhaBrakha – sound of a revolution’

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Record Store Day 2016 – Our Picks

Posted on April 13th, 2016 in News, Recent posts by .


On April 16 over 200 stores across the UK will be holding concerts and selling unique pressings in a mass celebration of all things vinyl. We’ve highlighted a few choice releases that you definitely shouldn’t miss out on. 

Full listings are available on the Record Store Day website.

Bixiga 70 – The Copan Connection: Bixiga 70 Meets Victor Rice (Glitterbeat)
Mixed in the Copan studio that sits high above the bustling streets of Sao Paulo, this release sees Bixiga 70’s glorious Afro-Brazilian album III get a dub-reworking from their producer Victor Rice.


Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 – I Go Shout Plenty (Knitting Factory)
This exclusive 10” release features a 1986 recording of ‘I Go Shout Plenty’ in addition to a rare B-side entitled ‘Frustration’. The piece originated from a session recorded in LA from 1969, with the version included here captured in a subsequent re-imagining with Afrika 70 in 1976.


Hannah Peel – Rebox 2 (My Own Pleasure)
Six years on from her debut Rebox EP that featured re-workings of contemporary songs on her music box, Peel returns to this minimal set up for a special gold vinyl release. She will perform at eight different record shops across the day.


The Hot 8 Brass Band – Sexual Healing (Tru Thoughts)
The New Orleans funk masters have a 7” coming out of their playful take on Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ that made them a household name. They’ve also just been announced for this year’s WOMAD festival at Charlton Park.


Ibrahim Ferrer – Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer (World Circuit)
This is the first time that Ferrer’s debut album will be available on double vinyl. It sold over one and a half million copies on its release.


Martin Simpson & Friends – Green Onions/Willie Taylor (Epic)
Scunthorpe’s finest presents a rip-roaring version of a Booker T & The MGs standard for this 7” offering. For the B-side he is joined by Nancy Kerr and Andy Cutting for a rendition of Anglo-American folk song ‘Willie Taylor’.


Skatalites – Soul Jazz Records Presents Skatalites (Soul Jazz)
Presented in a beautifully ornate box set, Soul Jazz have compiled a collection of 10 singles from the Skatalites’ early period, 1963-1965.


Various Artists – Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock & Roll (Dust to Digital)
Following on from the 2015 documentary film of the same name, this double gatefold release chronicles the Cambodian rock’n’roll boom of the 1960s and 70s.

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Now listen to this… Baloji, Shantel and Bembeya Jazz National

Posted on November 6th, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

Songlines Playlist

Here at Songlines HQ we’re always on the lookout for the most exciting music from around the world. Check out our playlist of the latest tracks that we’ve been listening to.

Tahir Palalı – ‘Hakk Mimarım’ (The Incarnation)
This track comes from the debut album by the Turkish musician – a nicely imagined Alevi song. Palalı’s debut O is reviewed in issue #113 (December 2015).


Baloji ft Mipipo – ‘Unité & Litre’
A couple of newly released videos from the Congolese rapper mark his long-awaited return after 2011’s Kinshasa Succursale. Hopefully this means there is a new album on the way!


Bembeya Jazz National‘Armée Guinéenne’
Bembeya Jazz were one of the great pioneering big bands of Francophone West African music alongside Rail Band and Orchestra Baobab. Released under the state-sponsored Editions Syliphone Conakry record label, there is a wealth of back catalogue material to explore from Bembeya and other Guinean groups of the time.


Shantel – ‘Disko Devil’
Shantel’s Viva Diaspora is a Top of the World review in the latest issue (December 2015, #113). ‘Disko Devil’ is another impressive track from the album, adding a twist on the reggae song ‘Chase the Devil’ by Max Romeo.


Fela Kuti – ‘Unknown Soldier’
‘Unknown Soldier’ was very close to being on the Fela Kuti blog we posted last month. Released alongside ‘Coffin for Head of State’, it is yet another thought-provoking piece of music by the legendary icon.

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10 Fela Kuti tracks that you need to hear

Posted on October 13th, 2015 in Recent posts by .


Bernard Matussière

With Felabration just around the corner, we have selected ten of Fela Kuti’s best songs 

October 15 marks what would be Fela Kuti’s 77th birthday. As well as the annual Felabration in Nigeria, London will be throwing its own birthday party at the British Library on October 16. In celebration of the life of the social maverick, human rights activist, and the creator of Afrobeat, we have put together our selection of Fela Kuti’s top ten tracks.

‘Why Black Man Dey Suffer’

Taken from the album of the same name, ‘Why Black Man Dey Suffer’ was released in 1971. Originally deemed to be too controversial to be released on EMI, Fela’s label at the time, the African Sounds label in Nigeria released it instead. The song is something of a powerful history lesson on the oppression of the African man, detailing the extent of which black men have suffered, from being used as slaves to having a new culture imposed on them by an alien people. Kuti’s notable drummer Tony Allen is not present on the record – drumming duties are carried out by former Cream member Ginger Baker.


Africans who still had a colonial mentality after the British had left are the subject of Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’. Annoyed by the ‘Anglofied’ Nigerian leaders and upper classes, his lyrics question their authenticity as Africans and continuously asserts that he is ‘African original’ and refuses to be recognised as a gentleman.


‘Confusion’ sees Fela comment on the state of urban Nigeria, particularly its most populous city Lagos. Accompanied by a funky groove carried by the sturdy rhythm of drummer Tony Allen, Kuti captures the frenzied atmosphere of the city detailing the traffic jams, absence of police and masses of regional dialects he witnesses.


One of Fela’s most notable songs, ‘Zombie’ is a scathing attack on the Nigerian military. Over choppy, quick-march instrumentation provided by the Afrika 70 band, Fela calls out orders in the style of an army general, which are then followed by the taunting ‘zombie’ refrain from backing female vocalists. The military, incensed by the composition, responded by burning Fela’s Kalakuta Republic compound to the ground and beating him to near-death. 


Despite the attack on the Kalakuta Republic compound, Fela continued to produce outstanding material. ‘Stalemate’ was released only a few months after ‘Zombie’ but is instead carried by a gentle, laid-back groove that complements Fela’s relaxed delivery rather than the frantic energy of the latter track. He provides the listener with situations where two people use logic rather than violence to resolve their conflicts.

‘Shuffering and Shmiling’

Fela did not solely point out political injustice in his music, but what he saw as religious injustice also. ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’ sees him critique the hypocrisies of organised religion, particularly Islam and Christianity, and those who blindly follow it, who suffer ‘with a smile on their face all the while believing they have a reward coming in their afterlife.’


‘International Thief Thief’ sees Fela fiercely attack two of his biggest nemeses, former Nigeria president Olusegun Obasanjo and the former boss of the Nigerian Decca Records Moshood Abiola, who both worked for the Internal Telephone & Telegraph Corporation. He calls them out as ‘rats’, ‘thieves’ and having ‘low mentality.

‘Coffin for Head of State’

During the raid of Fela’s Kalakuta Republic in 1977, his mother was thrown out of a second-story window and sustained multiple severe injuries that contributed to her passing the next year. Fela, saddened by her death, blamed the Nigerian government for her death and, accompanied with family and friends, carried her coffin to the gates of the army barracks. ‘Coffin for Head of State’ recorded several years after the ordeal is an emotional tribute to his mother, and his reflections on the state of his country.

‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense’

‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense’ is Fela’s exploration of the ‘teacher’ as a concept, explaining that throughout our lives taught by our parents, lecturers and the government. Made with his then new Egypt 80 band, the song showcases a clearer production than the preceding material he had made in the last decade with his older band.

‘Pansa Pansa’

A track from Underground System, the last of Fela’s original recordings before his passing in 1997, ‘Pansa Pansa’ was first performed in 1977. At an appearance at the Berlin Jazz Festival a year later he revealed that it had been inspired by African friends who would tell him that he should stop speaking the truth and protesting in his music. His response was that the government was only going to hear ‘pansa pansa’ (meaning ‘more more’) if Nigeria’s rulers were to continue their corruption. A fitting end to one of Africa’s greatest musicians.


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