Elevate Difference

The Best Of The Black President (Deluxe Edition)

Are you kidding me? What Fela fan does not want a two-disc music compilation along with a bonus DVD of interviews and concert footage? That aforementioned statement wasn’t a question, but I don’t like seeing the green underlining that Microsoft Word displays when it doesn’t agree with what you’ve written, so I oblige. My only complaint is that it doesn’t have more songs, more footage, and more shiny pictures.

Those of you who are fans of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti probably already have these songs in your collection. However, with the recent Broadway show of Fela! The Musical, this collection includes bonus features of interviews with Fela biographer, Carlos Moore, director, choreographer, and co-writer of the Broadway production, Bill T. Jones, and Fela himself—a collection that would invoke envy from any avid world music fanatic.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-1997) might have been a doctor, as was the desire of his parents, but instead he heeded his calling to the music world. Fela was born in Nigeria where Highlife music originated. After studying jazz in the United States, he chose to blend those lessons with Highlife music to create a unique and soulful fusion that has influenced people the world over. A part of this tasty concoction that he would later term Afro-Beat, included the philosophy and writings of Black activists and thinkers like Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and other Black Panther figures. This blend made Fela a formidable opponent of the corruption that was going on in Nigeria. Finding himself the subject of constant backlash in the form of beatings, jailing and harassment did not stop the persistence and determination that Fela maintained in exposing the scandalous behavior of Nigerian leaders. Even the death of his mother as a result of injuries she sustained during one of the many raids to his living quarters did not silence Fela. The constant battle between Fela and the Nigerian government only increased his popularity.

Fela was, indeed, a unique individual; many people who have heard of him are only familiar with the eccentricity he displayed in marrying all of the women in his band, or his declaration to be the next President of Nigeria (1979) under his “Movement of the People” Party. I urge you to study Fela’s music from the approach of an activist and a musician, and/or someone who simply loves music. Fela’s contribution to human rights and music is inseparable and invaluable.

Written by: Olupero R. Aiyenimelo, February 4th 2010

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