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Fela Kuti "The '69 Los Angeles Sessions" (FAK/MCA Records)

Fela Anikulapo (Ransome) Kuti. Eventually, just Fela. His middle name, which he chose for himself, means "he who carries death in his pouch." Actually, he carried death in his blood and died of complications arising from AIDS in 1997 at the age of 58. For more than 30 years before his death, however, he was a rabble-rousing, trash-talking thorn in the Nigerian government's side. He attacked its officials in his music. They beat him and jailed him. He formed his own republic inside his walled compound in Lagos. They threw his mother out a window of his home and then burned it to the ground. He ran for president. They jailed him for counterfeiting. He wrote songs with titles like, "Coffin for Head of State," "Authority Stealing" and "VIP (Vagabonds in Power)." He married all 27 women in his 70-person band. He created Afrobeat, a pulsating and mesmerizing blend of African rhythms, jazz improvisation, blasting horns and funky guitar riffs surrounding his chanting and pidgin English lyrics. In the end, the government couldn't stop him. They couldn't keep up with him.

This album is the seminal work in Fela's creation of Afrobeat. It's not the best I've heard of his music, but being the beginning, it's a good place to start. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful, and if you like it, Fela was a prolific musician and there is plenty more to explore. Start with this, read the liner notes, shake your hips and get to know a real musical, political, spiritual and social guru. — Randall Stamper



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