Ikoyi Blindness

Ikoyi Blindness by Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Africa 70.
Bandcamp Link: Ikoyi Blindness

The mid-70s were Fela’s most prolific time. In 1975, when Ikoyi Blindness came out, he released around 8 albums. After you get the couple obvious ones, (Zombi, Yellow Fever, Beast of No Nation, and Teacher Don’t Teach Me No Nonsense…) it’s hard to know where to go next.

I have a bunch of Fela’s albums tagged in my streaming service, and whenever one of the two tunes from Ikoyi Blindness comes up, it always grabs my attention.

First, the tempos are a bit faster than usual. Second the horn section is on fire, with some pretty elaborate arrangements, and such an outstanding Baritone Sax solo at the end of Ikoyi Blindness that it just seems like it could go on forever. At the end, it sounds like they had to walk the microphone out of the room to get the Bari player, and the band, to stop.

Also, the rhythms section is just a little odd. In sections of, “Gba Mi Leti Ki N’Dolowo” listening to the rhythms, you’d swear it could be James Chance or some other No Wave band.

I don’t know what Fela and the band had in their coffee when they recorded these tracks, but I think I need some.

I’ve listened to a lot of Fela’s albums, and this one always stands out for me, even among the acknowledged classics.

Oh, and about the title, the bandcamp site explains:

“Fela’s definition of mental blindness is a person who, with his eyes wide-open, misses his direction and keeps turning round in circles without ever getting to his destination. Ikoyi Blindness refers to the Nigerian elite class who choose wrong professions because it provides them status in society rather than job satisfaction. Not only are they in the wrong professions, they are also blind to the sufferings of their fellow countrymen who live in ghettos like: Mushin, Ajegunle, Somolu, Maroko and even Kalakuta. Pointing to the example of a lawyer; who instead of buying law books, chooses hammer as his trade tool, or a musician who chooses spanner as his trade tool. Fela says there is still some hope for such men, if they could channel their way of thinking towards their environment. ‘…them miss road! Them find road again oh!’. Those social-climbers who see the status quo and stepping into the shoes of former colonial administrators as a sign of moving up in society.”

We could use someone like Fela in America, and Africa, today*.

*Well, minus the misogyny and mistreatment of women. We still have plenty of that to go around, thank you very much.

#FelaAnikulapoKuti #Fela #Africa70 #IkoyiBlindness

No Agreement

No Agreement by Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Africa 70.
Bandcamp Link: No Agreement

There’s a good story about Lester Bowie in, “Message to Our Folks: The Art Ensemble of Chicago”.

The Art Ensemble had finished up a European tour and most of the band headed back to the US.

Lester had some money left and decided, as an African American musician, instead of going home, he wanted to go to Africa and play with the biggest name in African music of the time, Fela Kuti.

So, without knowing anyone in Nigeria, he booked a flight to Lagos. He gets to the hotel, drops off his bags, grabs his trumpet. Hails a cab. He asks the cab driver to “take me to Fela”. Amazingly, the cab driver does not flinch and drives the crazy American Jazz musician right to Fela’s compound.

Bowie arrives unannounced, shows Fela his trumpet, and Fela decides to audition him right then and there. Fela pulls out a Jamey Aebersold record and tells Lester to play along. Blues in B Flat. Lester, of course, aces this audition, and stays in Nigeria for several months playing with Fela’s band and absorbing the culture.

The book says Bowie played on 5 of Fela’s albums during his stay in Nigeria from June to August of 1977, but this album is the only one I can find which credits Mr Bowie. He is a featured guest and takes a solo on both tracks. For my money, he acquits himself with more grace on the instrumental track, “Dog Eat Dog”.

Mr Bowie said about the experience, “Music life is a great time, if you just go on and trust it.” 

#FelaKuti #LesterBowie #NoAgreement #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #Africa70