Fela Kuti – “Everything Scatter”
The Best of the Black President 2
Fela Kuti passed away 15 years ago, but his legacy continues to grow. His sons, Femi and Seun, are proudly carrying the Afrobeat torch and Tony Allen (who created Afrobeat with Fela) is constantly busy with projects. Fela! on Broadway was so successful that Fela! is going on a massive North American tour now through June. Cities include Washington DC, Chicago, LA, Miami, Seattle, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, Tucson, Cleveland, Charlotte NC, Tempe AZ, and Schenectady. Check out the tour schedule.
In 2009, Knitting Factory Records was granted a license from the Fela Anikulapo Kuti Estate for the worldwide re-release of his massive catalog. Nearly 50 albums are currently being repackaged, with in-depth track commentaries written by Afrobeat historian Chris May, who provides a fascinating analysis of Fela’s music. In addition to the reissues, Knitting Factory Records has released The Best of the Black President 2; a two-disc retrospective that continues where The Best of the Black President left off. The special deluxe edition also includes a DVD of Fela’s legendary Glastonbury concert. Senegalese-American R&B and hip hop artist Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam, professionally known as Akon, grew up with Fela’s music and provides the forward for this collection.
“Fela was brave as a lion. He seems to have led every day of his life following Kwame Nkrumah’s motto: ‘the secret of life is to have no fear.’ How many of us can say that?” – Akon
The first track on the compilation is 1975’s “Everything Scatter.” By the mid-70’s, Fela had concocted the perfect Afrobeat mixture: tight, looping rhythm guitars, edgy, punching tenor sax, steady drums, call and response vocals and a booming horn section. Also of note is the movement towards the broken English lyrics he wrote to extend his audience beyond its Yoruba-speaking base. “Everything Scatter” discusses the tension surrounding Nigeria at the time. An argument takes place on a bus where a passenger accuses Fela and his followers of being weed smokers, political troublemakers, hooligans and prostitutes (the first two accusations were true). Another passenger defends them saying it’s better to be a weed smoker than a drunk, better to be a political “troublemaker” than a sell-out. The argument gets rowdy and the bus driver takes Fela and friends to the police station for the men in uniform to shut them up and throw them in prison.
There are over 50 Afrobeat bands operating across Europe, the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia. Fela and Tony Allen’s distinct musical style has become an international phenomenon that continues to spread. Now that people will have access to Fela’s entire catalog, the Afrobeat revolution will continue to raise global consciousness.