Cash for Ash
Trawl for the best protest songs of all time and chances are you’ll not find one Fela Kuti song. Search for the Best Political Musicians of all time and you'll find a long list of people not fit to brush Fela’s fur coat.
I’ve been obsessed with Fela Kuti since I first saw him on The Tube back in the 1980s when I was about 14 - wearing a fur coat and probably nothing else but speedos (him - not me). Having no money - it was straight to the library the following Monday to look for some Fela music. They had one tape - Fela live with Ginger Baker (Black Man’s Cry NEVER fails)… and so began a life long obsession.
I used to play Fela Kuti LPs before we went on stage back in the 90s. I remember putting on Coffin for Head of State. A bunch of people got up and started dancing. A girl came over and asked what he was singing about. I said “he’s singing about his mother getting thrown out of her bedroom window by the army and subsequently dying” - “You’re joking - right?”.
That’s the power in his music. It uplifts, it empowers, it inspires. It never preaches.
At it’s very core the music is satirical. He poked fun and burst bubbles. He gave ordinary Nigerians a chance to laugh and sing about the corruption the lived amongst.
Poking fun and bursting bubbles in a democracy is easy.
Poking fun and bursting bubbles in a military dictatorship is about as ballsy as it gets.
We need an Ulster Afrobeat Orchestra right now - to poke fun and burst bubbles.
The list of song titles and source material is endless.
Auditions begin in Spring 2019
Written on: December 12 2018
Filed under: music :
I saw Google celebrating Dizzy Gillespie's Birthday a few weeks back. It was surprising I suppose, as he seems to have been largely forgotten. The popularisation of black american music and more importantly culture more or less starts with Dizzy Gillespie.
Louis Armstrong probably softened up the ears of a mostly white middle class but Gillespie took jazz to a whole new audience and similar to Hip Hop, BeBop was as much about style as music.
BeBop is hard going, it can be a hurdle most people never overcome. When faced with the breakneck speed, odd harmonies unhummable melodies, most give up at the first. It can be dense, frenetic, relentless and extremely sophisticated, as the best Hip Hop can, so in order to have caught on in the way it did it needed more access points, more hooks. Gillespie supplied all the hooks.
It was the photos of the beret, horn-rimmed glasses, goatee beard and suits that initially made you sit up and take notice. The style was more or less imported from trips to Europe (France) and it was this re-exported style that the Europeans latched on to. Anyone could 'look' like DIzzy Gillespie because you definitely were never going to sound like him.
In the early 50s he was pictured with the bottom button of his shirt undone, by chance. After it was printed, the 'beeboppers' began leaving their shirts partly undone. He pioneered the 'crumpled look', again by chance, when forced to sleep over night on busses between concerts he'd show up on stage with his suit in a mess. Because his music was so meticulous and virtuosic the devotees assumed he'd applied this to every aspect of his appearance, assuming a profound meaning behind everything he did.
The bullfrog cheeks and the trumpet pointing to the heavens are the things he'll be most remembered for rather than the earth shattering music he pioneered. If Google really wanted to honour him they'd have placed a small MP3 clip beneath his image.
DIZZY GILLESPIE - Bebop
Written on: November 06 2010
Filed under: music :