Fela Kuti: Gentleman 12" (new)

Knitting Factory Records

$20.00

Fela Kuti's rich discography stretches from the mid 1960s with Fela Ransome Kuti & His Highlife Rakers, to the early 1990s with Egypt 80, and there are masterpieces all along the way. But the 1970s, with Africa 70 and thenAfrika 70, was the decade during which Fela's Afrobeat went through its most dramatic changes – musically and politically. It begins with 1971's Shakara and ends with 1980's I.T.T. (International Thief Thief). It also includesLondon Scene (1972), Afrodisiac and Gentleman (both 1973) and Upside Down (1976). The penultimate selection is 1976's Zombie, which was a huge hit in Nigeria.

The title track of this excellent album has often been hailed as Fela's masterpiece. Musically innovative, melodically addictive, Fela got it all right in this politically scathing song in which he opposes Westernization and those who imitate Western ways. "I'm no be gentleman at all," Fela sings, and then goes on to detail the ways in which he's a "true African original" – and therefore superior to those who wear three-piece suits and hold tight to their colonial mentality.

Fela follows this track with "Fefe Naa Efe," which derives its name from an Ashanti proverb describing the beauty of a woman holding her breasts as she runs. Fela, who had many Ghanaian fans (and more than a few Ghanaian wives and girlfriends), sings this lush track as a tribute to Ghana. Finally, "Igbe" again shows the artist breaking cultural taboos by singing literally and figuratively about "shit", as the word translates to, attaching the word to those friends who may betray you.

Tags: 70s afrobeat reissues