Monday, February 6, 2012

Original Suffer Head/I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)

by Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the Egypt 80

I can't get enough of these Knitting Factory re-releases of old Fela Kuti albums.  There are like twenty-five of these things, each holding two separate records from back in the day, and I want them all.

This CD contains 'Original Suffer Head', a twenty-one minute opus wherein Fela rails against the problems of Nigeria in 1981.  What amazes me is that his list of issues (water, housing, money, electricity, food, and development) applies as much today as it did back then.  I am always impressed with the way that Fela could take a serious, solemn issue (or issues), and turn it into a danceable piece of music.

The B-side to that piece is 'Power Show', which talks about the behaviour of the rich, who feel the necessity of lording themselves over the poor.  Again, were this song being sung as part of the Occupy movement, it wouldn't be out of place.

Also on this disc is I.T.T. (International Thief Thief), a twenty-four minute attack on International Telephone and Telegraph, and its CEO Moshood Abiola, who also owned the record label that Fela was feuding with at the time.  From the liner notes that explain this song:

Fela takes this opportunity to publicly disgrace Abiola for, in Fela's eyes, becoming a stooge for the white man through his general colonial mentality, and specifically for his collusion in the CIA-led effort to dislocate Chile's democratically elected Marxist president Allende.  The lyrics also include a pointed history lesson outlining the way, in the days of slavery, the white man would find a willing African who would sell his own people into slavery.
You have to love an artist who would take such risks and push his agenda so strongly, and so popularly.  I wish we had some equivalents to Fela today...

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