In the post-colonial history of Nigeria no figure has stood out as clearly as that of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His courage was legendary. His music was sublime. His message, always delivered with a wry humor, was a clarion call that echoes through time and, twenty years after his passing, still possesses a searing relevance to the ills of society, not just in Nigeria but throughout the world.
This week, around Fela’s birthday, his life, times and music are remembered and honored by the legions of his admirers in a series of Felabrations that take place across Europe, America, Canada, and in such far-flung spots as Jakarta, Osaka and Reykjavik. In Nigeria itself a week-long series of events takes place, attended by many thousands and animated by a host of artists, unknowns to superstars, who come to pay homage to the late, great, Fela.
His catalogue of more than 50 albums are distributed worldwide, both physically and digitally while, in recent years, to acknowledge the resurgence of interest in listening to music by way of vinyl, a series of deluxe box sets have been released, curated by Fela’s most ardent fans.
The first was by Questlove, celebrated drummer of The Roots, the second by Ginger Baker, drummer with the super group, Cream, the third by legendary producer, Brian Eno and now the fourth curated by world-renowned songstress, Erykah Badu will be released December 15 2017 on Knitting Factory Records.
Erykah’s selection includes her “favorite Fela Piece of all times,” 1980’s Coffin For Head of State, alongside Yellow Fever (1976), No Agreement (1977), J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop) (1977), V.I.P. (1979), Army Arrangement (1984), and Underground System (1992). Says Erykah, “Fela Kuti is a Fucking Genius. Please listen to these tracks, preferably with a nice blunt.. with a nice slow burn.”
There are only 3,000 copies of this limited edition box set, which comes with a 16″x24″ poster designed by Nigerian artist Lemi Ghariokwu, the creative force behind 26 of Fela Kuti’s album covers, and a 20-page full-color booklet. The booklet features seven personal essays written by Erykah Badu, seven in-depth commentaries by veteran music journalist and Afrobeat historian, Chris May; song lyrics; and never before published photos of Fela Kuti. The audio has been restored and remastered from Fela’s original Nigerian recordings. The artwork for each album has been meticulously recreated from original album artwork, alongside vintage vinyl label artwork.