I’d heard of Fela Kuti before I heard Fela. But when I finally made the discovery of Nigeria’s Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti aka Fela Anikulapo Kuti aka Fela, I was done for.
Actually, that’s a little untrue. After being told to check out his music I went out and bought the Best of the Black President double album and because the songs are so long I skimmed a lot until I got to “I.T.T. Part 2” and the guitar got me. I listened to the whole nearly 14-minute song and by the time it was over I was in love. After that, I dug into as much of his catalog as possible. And anybody who has done the same knows that Fela has what feels like a million albums, even though some albums only have two songs on them. BUT, those songs are likely clocking in at over 13 or 14 minutes apiece. That is perfect for me because the songs build and take you on a journey. I like journeys.
The song featured today, “Lady,” particularly jumped out to me when I finally listened to it. It opens up with a dope horn section and then eventually hits you with some percussion, bass, guitar, and keys before it goes full throttle into a straight-up jam. Like jam-jam. If your body doesn’t get to moving when this song gets going, your body is broken.
Fela Kuti “Lady” (1972)
The lyrics itself, political as usual for Fela during this point of his life, speak to African women’s taking power in their lives, and desire for gender equality. Fela’s relationships with women and misogyny have been called into question plenty, but this song was probably far ahead of its time. If you’re unfamiliar with his discography, dig into it. There’s something for everybody and if you like the meshing of funk, jazz, and soul in ways that absolutely jam, Fela and the various iterations of his bands and groups is your bag.
She gon’ say I be lady, oh.