Kuti, Fela – “Monkey Banana/Excuse O” – [Wrasse Records]
All Hail what is Fela Kuti and all he touches for he is godhead….. at least I think so. I LOVE Fela Kuti’s music. Each new collection I listen to just further supports why I think he is the best, and this CD rerelease of two, count ’em two, 1975 albums continues my belief. Thanks to labels like Knitting Factory and Wrasse Records, who put out this collection, we get to hear more and more of what Fela was doing. The nice thing about a CD is that you can hear cuts played back to back without interruption, creating a bit of that feeling of what it would be like to see Fela live, even though 55 minutes would have been just the start of a true Fela concert. The albums “Monkey Business” and “Excuse O” are examples of Fela moving into longer pieces, the shortest being 11 and a half minutes. All start out with maracas establishing the beat which the rest of the instruments will build on and twist around. As sounds build and instruments begin to fill the space, separate rhythms are established and then removed. Interplay between instruments and voice take over in a sort of call and response action. Horns will at times dominate the soundscape, which under Fela’s control is a good thing. A chorus of horns will play a riff together, stop, repeat it, stop, repeat on and on to create a new rhythm. This plays off of Fela’s voice and his call and response action with his back up singers. Do not forget the organ, that cheesy, spooky, warped and almost off key sounding organ. Fela makes it curl, catching the listener unawares but somehow making it all familiar. Lastly the lyrics: songs about corruption, anger at African political systems, critiques of the education system and a calling out of those Africans who give up their own culture and history for European history and culture.
PLAY THIS CD!!!!! Put on one of the numbers and then start dancing ….. and listen to what Fela tells you.