Reclaiming Lady

My current auditory obsession is this remake of Fela Kuti’s 1974 song Lady, by tUnE-yArDs, featuring ?uestlove, Angelique Kidjo and Akua Naru. It is the first single from the second Red Hot compilation, (RED) Hot + Fela, which will raise funds for HIV/AIDS research.

My love for this version is so strong it is almost sexual. Angelique Kidjo is a goddess as always, her lead vocals are full of grunts and gymnastics that call to mind Fela’s energetic stage presence. ?uestlove, the biggest proponent of Fela in mainstream Western music is as ever, the cool backbone of the track. tUnE-yArDs quirky harmonies are just left-of-centre enough to stand on top of the amazing things the brass section, represented by Rubblebucket, are doing. This version manages to inject even more energy into the song, which if you know anything about Fela Kuti and his long musical reign at The Shrine, is quite an achievement. The climax of the vocal harmonies and brass at the end, will make your arm hair stand up and take notice.

Fela’s music was always political, and Merrill Garbus’ (of tUnE-yArDs) choice to populate this song with female vocalists is a political one. The original song was a criticism of what Fela saw of African women’s embrace of Western values.

If you call am woman
African woman no go ‘gree
She go say, she go say, “I be Lady o”

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Music is the Weapon of the Future II: Arrest the Music!

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was a Nigerian musician, the creator of Afrobeat, political activist, thorn in the side of six different Nigerian administrations and it is impossible to discuss African protest music without discussing him, his music and his politics.Of his music Tejumola Olaniyan writes in his book Arrest the Music! Fela and his Rebel Art and Politics,

“To listen to Fela’s music then is to listen to a kind of cultural, specifically musical, “biography” of the postcolonial African state: an account of the state’s crisis-ridden life so far as seen by oppositional music”

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Any followers of my 1 x 43 blog have probably read my blog about funk and its importance as an inescapable part of modern music. Now Africa is undeniably the birthplace of the blue note or the flattened third, fifth or seventh notes. Yet old African vintage records are often ignored by the younger generation of Africans, but revered and venerated in the west. I had to be in the United States to find my valuable $45 copy of Zambian afrorock band The Witch’s’ debut album Introduction. Secondly it took the genius of hip hop producer Madlib to actually use a song by The Witch as sample fodder, for a song in his Beat Konducta series of beat tapes. Yet we the African youth of today ignore the golden era of African funk/rock. So I will give a small history of the movement but also try to explain why in God’s name people are going to such great lengths to dig up old strange sounding music from bygone eras and far-flung places.

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