Fela Kuti. Even if you’ve never heard his music (which is doubtful), it’s nearly impossible that you haven’t come across his name. He is one of the great musical visionaries of the 20th century, a world musical icon that really hasn’t got his complete due here in the States. Part musician, part political radical, part social activist, part sheer entertainer, Kuti was a force unto himself ultimately laid low not by the government that he railed against but by an invisible disease that to this day lays waste to Africa: AIDS. Although I hadn't even realized it before this instant, it's appropriate that I'm writing about Kuti after posting on Funk Aid for Africa the other day, a charity album raising money in support of children affected by AIDS
To kick off their Kuti extravaganza, Knitting Factory is starting with The Best of the Black President, a two disc collection including some of his best/most well known work. It's also available in a deluxe version including a DVD featuring segments from Music Is The Weapon, the Berlin Jazz Festival, Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonesense, and interviews with Bill T. Jones and Carlos Moore. For those of you not familiar with his work, this is a great place to start, as most of his albums typically only handful of long, developed tracks.
Coincidentally, also opening this month is Fela!, the Broadway musical based on his life. I'm planning on heading down to NYC next month to check it out. Any readers out there interested in a Broadway field trip?
Fela Kuti - Shuffering And Shmiling (part 2) : The Best Of the Black President [Disc 2] or the Deluxe Version
and a cover of it from the brilliant tribute charity compilation Red Hot + Riot