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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The four (lengthy, as usual) songs occupying this album were originally recorded in Nigeria as 45 rpm releases. Afrodisiac consists of re-recordings of these, done in London in the early '70s. While it's true that Fela Kuti's albums from this period are pretty similar to each other, in their favor they're not boring. These four workouts, all sung in Nigerian, are propulsive mixtures of funk and African music, avoiding the homogeneity of a lot of funk and African records of later vintage, done with nonstop high energy. The interplay between horns, electric keyboards, drums, and Kuti's exuberant vocals gives this a jazz character without sacrificing the earthiness that makes it danceable as well. "Jeun Ko Ku (Chop'n Quench)" became Kuti's first big hit in Nigeria, selling 200,000 copies in its first six months in its initial version. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released April 12, 2011 | Strut

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
At the beginning of the 20th century, musicians from the Gold Coast (the former name of Ghana) drew from jazz to dominate African urban music with an explosive cocktail called “highlife”. But their supremacy slowly faded away with the invention of afrobeat in the 1970s by Nigerian Fela Kuti, who started his career making highlife sounds. From then on, this passionately funky and Afrocentric rhythm has slowly invaded the entire Western Africa. Ghanaian singer and guitarist Ebo Taylor, a friend of the “Black President”, has dedicated his career to the Nigerian-born style. Discovered belatedly in Europe with his 2009 album Love and Death, Ebo Taylor has since then enjoyed a worldwide recognition, which naturally led to an update of the works from his glorious albeit continental past. In 2011, English label Strut Records reset the Ebo Taylor clock with this flamboyant compilation featuring the gems the Ghanaian artist disseminated on his path between 1973 and 1980. Relentless rhythmics, gleaming brass, vivacious and colourful guitar solos, and engaging chants were part of his music from the very beginning. These tracks prove that with various formations (Uhuru-Yenzu, Asaase Ase, The Apagya Showband and Super Sounds Namba, with his fellow countrymen and singers Pat Thomas and C. K. Mann) or in solo, Ebo Taylor has always been able to spark some magic. © Benjamin MiNiMuM / Qobuz
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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 1979 | Comet

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
In 2002, Evolver released No Accommodation for Lagos/No Discrimination, which contained two albums -- No Accommodation for Lagos (1978, originally released on P-Vine) and No Discrimination (1980, also originally released on P-Vine) -- by Tony Allen on one compact disc. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Gentleman is both an Africa 70 and Afro-beat masterpiece. High marks go to the scathing commentary that Fela Anikulapo Kuti lets loose but also to the instrumentation and the overall arrangements, as they prove to be some of the most interesting and innovative of Fela's '70s material. When the great tenor saxophone player Igo Chico left the Africa 70 organization in 1973, Fela Kuti declared he would be the replacement. So in addition to bandleader, soothsayer, and organ player, Fela picked up the horn and learned to play it quite quickly -- even developing a certain personal voice with it. To show off that fact, "Gentleman" gets rolling with a loose improvisatory solo saxophone performance that Tony Allen eventually pats along with before the entire band drops in with classic Afro-beat magnificence. "Gentleman" is also a great example of Fela's directed wit at the post-colonial West African sociopolitical state of affairs. His focus is on the Africans that still had a colonial mentality after the Brits were gone and then parallels that life with his own. He wonders why his fellow Africans would wear so much clothing in the African heat: "I know what to wear but my friend don't know" and also points out that "I am not a gentleman like that!/I be Africa man original." To support "Gentleman," the B-side features equally hot jazzy numbers, "Fefe Naa Efe" and "Igbe," making this an absolute must-have release. [In 2000, MCA released Confusion and Gentleman as a two-fer.] © Sam Samuelson /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released April 9, 2001 | Ninja Tune

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Fans of Fela, Tony Allen, and to a lesser extent the Daktaris will be hunkering down on the dancefloor to this slab of pure, hot, and heavy Afro-beat from the heart of Brooklyn. Antibalas is a musicians collective dedicated to furthering the Afro-beat gospel at any cost, and with 13 members and a boatload of frantic, bass- and drum-heavy chops, they're likely to succeed. These cats don't just have the form down; they're not just aping Fela, they're deconstructing the Afro-beat rhythms and harmonies down to the last detail and composing new sonic architectures from which to groove and improvise. This is deep, funky, political, spiritual, and greasier than a chicken bone out of the fryer. Tracing in just enough Cuban son to add dimension and the ghost of a sleng-teng rhythm here, a dub bass out there, and the ever-shifting polyrhythms of Afro-beat jazz and hypnosis of James Brown's funky soul, Antibalas takes eight tunes and turns them all into floor-burners. Led by baritone saxophonist and conductor Martin Antibalas, the ensemble numbers six in the percussion section, a four-piece horn section, a bassist, three guitarists, and an organ, with a host of vocalists chanting down the voodoo. "Dirt and Blood," "Si, Se Puede," and the burning wail of "El Machete" are standouts, though there isn't a weak second on this disc. One of two things will happen if you spin this jam at a party: you'll either politicize everyone by pure beat consciousness or they'll drop dead from too much dancing while under polyrhythmic hypnosis. That's the prognosis, folks; and that's as high a compliment as can be paid. Awesome. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The album Shakara was a turning point for Fela Kuti. The year was 1972: he had just experienced his first continental success with Chop ’n’ Quench, changed his band’s name from Nigeria 70 to Africa 70, learned to play the saxophone (in just 24 hours according to legend) and adopted Pidgin, an English Creole, as his writing language to reach a larger audience. He had also just taken over the club of the Empire Hotel, in Lagos, renamed African Shrine, where he was performing legendary concerts on a nightly basis with his band and a myriad of dancers. The ingredients for success and legend were present, and Shakara – that featured the title track and the famous Lady −, proudly marked the beginning of a glorious era for the most scandalous and respected African musician. The two epic tracks both stretch over 13 minutes. Fela, with his Rhodes organ and a playing style reminiscent of the Doors’ Ray Manzarek, injects drama, while Tony Allen sets the rhythm so specific to afrobeat and conducts the musicians. Guitars keep up the pressure, brass mount their attack like warriors, marking the shapes and volutes of this sensual epic. Fela’s imperial song, and the response from female choirs, still provide the most irrepressible chills. Both Lady and Shakara are addressed to women, in an ambiguous way that triggered the wrath of some feminists. In Lady, Fela makes the distinction between a simple African woman – docile, obedient and obliging to her husband −, and the educated lady who, influenced by western morals, wants to be man’s equal. One could sense Fela’s preference for the former, and his fear of the latter, because even though he is well known for having married 27 Nigerians on the same day, he was also madly in love with an English mixed-race woman, Remilekun Taylor, with whom he had his son Femi. In Shakara (braggart), he takes to pieces the schemes of dominant males who threaten women with violence, but whose claptrap is empty. Be that as it may, the musical discourse is foolproof and constitutes the very essence of an always-active historic genre. As good as his successors and descendants may be, afrobeat will never be as clearly penetrating as through the voice of the initiating maestro: Fela Anikulapo Kuti. © Benjamin MiNiMuM/Qobuz
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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Fela Kuti's 1975 Confusion shows him and Africa 70 at the heights of instrumental prowess and ambiguous jibes (the stabs are about to get a bit more direct and heated with 1977's Zombie). "Confusion" begins with an unusual free jazz interplay between Fela on organ and drummer Tony Allen that has the presence of 2001: A Space Odyssey in its omnipresent drama. Then the group falls into a lengthily mid-tempo Afro funk that plays with a sureness that only comes from skilled musicians and a dictator-like leader; here is the formula that had made Fela a genius: Once he has the listener (or the crowd -- as all of his songs were originally meant to entertain and educate his audiences at the Shrine) entranced in his complex (and at the same time, deceptively simple) arrangements of danceable grooves, he hits them with what he wants to say. "Confusion" is a comment on the general condition of urban Nigeria (Lagos, in particular). Fela uses traffic jams, no fewer than three dialects, and a multitude of currencies that make trading difficult to complete the allusion to the general post-colonial confusion of a Nigeria lacking in infrastructure and proper leadership. Confusion is a highly recommended 25-minute Afro-beat epic. [In 2000, MCA released Confusion and Gentleman as a two-fer.] © Sam Samuelson /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released April 18, 2010 | Proper Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Afrobeat - Released January 1, 2009 | Knitting Factory Records

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Afrobeat - Released January 1, 2009 | Knitting Factory Records

Zombie was the most popular and impacting record that Fela Kuti & Africa 70 would record -- it ignited the nation to follow Fela's lead and antagonize the military zombies that had the population by the throat. Fela is direct and humorous in his attack as he barks out commands to the soldiers like: "Attention! Double up! Fall In! Fall out! Fall down! Get ready!" Meanwhile, his choir responds with "Zombie!" in between each statement. Since the groove was so absolutely contagious, it took the nation by storm: People in the street would put on a blank stare and walk with hands affront proclaiming "Zombie!" whenever they would see soldiers. If "Zombie" caught the attention of the populous it also cought the attention of the authority figures -- this would cause devastating personal and professional effects as the Nigerian government came down on him with absolute brute force not long after the release of this record. Also included are "Monkey Banana," a laid-back groove that showcases drummer Tony Allen's mastery of the Afro-beat, and "Everything Scatter," a standard mid-tempo romp. Both songs are forgetful in relation to "Zombie," but this is still an essential disc to own for the title track alone. © Sam Samuelson /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

In the AMG review of 2009's The Best of the Black President, critic Richie Unterberger wrote: "A Fela Kuti best-of is especially daunting, when you consider trying to condense more than 70 albums into a mere two-CD set, and also needing to work with an artist whose tracks were usually in the neighborhood of ten minutes and more." Apparently, Knitting Factory thought so too, because it took over four years for a second volume to hit the streets. Like its predecessor, this set spans Fela's career, though the tracks are sequenced aesthetically rather than chronologically. There are a total of 12 cuts spread over two remastered discs. Highlights include the extended version of "Sorrow Tears and Blood," which closes disc one; 1971's "Black Man's Cry," which kicks off disc two; the furious second part of "Underground System," from his last album in 1992, and 1975's "Expensive Shit." In addition to the killer Afro-beat, critic Chris May's track-by-track analysis is indispensable. The booklet is also introduced by no less than Akon, who claims he's been listening to Fela's music all his life. [The Deluxe Edition also contains a DVD featuring a live performance from the Glastonbury Festival.] © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

Originally released in 1971, this LP had Fela Kuti solidifying the format that would take him into international visibility in the years to come: extended tracks with grooves that mixed African and funk rhythms, punctuated by rudimentary lyrics. There are just four songs on the album, none shorter than seven minutes, and all but one going over the ten-minute mark. More than a dozen strong, his band, the Africa '70, cooks pretty well on tracks that fuse jazz, soul, and African music in a trancelike fashion that avoids becoming stale, despite the length of the arrangements. Ex-Cream/Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker's name was given prominence in the billing, probably to attract rock- and pop-oriented listeners who might not ordinarily take a chance on music from the African continent. However, it's Fela and Africa '70, not Baker, who are the dominant presence on a record that sounds much like a mixture of James Brown, fusion, and Nigerian forms. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released March 23, 2009 | Strut

"[A]n ear-opener for fans of Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade, cultural ambassadors whose Nigerian exports blew the minds of funky post-punks and disco connoisseurs in the U.S. and U.K. in the 1980s." © TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

This disc is an overt response to the consistent harassment afflicting Fela Kuti's Kalakuta Republic in the early '70s under the oppressive Lagos authorities. The title track is a direct reference to an actual incident that occurred in which the cops planted a marijuana cigarette on Kuti -- who promptly swallowed it and therefore destroyed any evidence. He was then held until he could pass the drugs from his system -- which miraculously did not occur when his fecal sample was then sent for analysis, thanks to some help from his fellow inmates. Because of the costs incurred during this debacle, Kuti proclaimed his excrement as Expensive Shit. Musically, the Afro-funk and tribal rhythms that Kuti and his Africa '70 put down can rightfully be compared to that of James Brown or even a George Clinton-esque vibe. The beats are infectious with a hint of Latin influence, making the music nearly impossible to keep from moving to. Although the band is large, it is also remarkably tight and malleable enough to accompany and punctuate Kuti's vehement and indicting lyrics. The nature of what Kuti says, as well as infers, amounts to much more than simply whining or bad-rapping the law. His witty and thoughtful raps not only relate his side of the incident, but do so with tongue-in-cheek humor -- such as the statement that his oppressors must really enjoy his feces because they want to examine it so urgently. Yet, he tries to stay away from it, for somewhat obvious reasons. The album's B-side contains the metaphysical "Water No Get Enemy." This is a comparatively jazzy piece, with Africa '70 again exploring and stretching out its impulsive beats behind Kuti's singing. The track features some of his finest and most inspired keyboard work as well. He weaves hypnotic and ethereal electric piano lines over the earthy-sounding brass section. The laid-back groove works well in contrast to the manic tempo of "Expensive Shit." © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released March 1, 2012 | Born Bad Records

African Electronic Music 1975-1982 compiles recordings from the earlier portion of multi-instrumentalist, writer, and musicologist Francis Bebey's output. Employing traditional Western and African instrumentation as well as innovations of the era like synthesizers and drum machines, his sound was a forward-thinking and richly engaging blend of African roots music, the makossa (urban popular music) of his native Cameroon, and the then-emerging electronic music movement. Simultaneously minimal and layered, Bebey's ebullient melodies, kinetic rhythms, and endearing vocals (sung and toasted in his native Duala as well as in French and English) highlight songs like the marimba- and bass-driven "New Track" and the wryly bubbly "Coffee Cola Song," paving the way for artists like Afro-funk fusionist Manu Dibango, electrified thumb piano innovators Konono No. 1, and avant-afro groovers NOMO. © TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released October 13, 2014 | Born Bad Records

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Afrobeat - Released January 17, 2020 | Pura Vida Sounds

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Afrobeat - Released September 1, 2014 | Knitting Factory Records

Finding Fela, the documentary by director Alex Gibney, is a compelling film that was originally intended to portray the cast of the Bill T. Jones musical Fela! during rehearsals and performances in Lagos, Nigeria; it's the first Broadway musical ever staged there. While capturing hundreds of hours of footage with a local film crew about the production and its reception by a Lagos audience, questions naturally arose about the wild life and times of the musical's subject, Fela Kuti himself. Gibney shot interviews with musicians -- those who played with him and those who were admirers -- and family, friends, and acquaintances, and wove them in with performance footage of Kuti's bands. This double-disc soundtrack is not so much a best-of, but it does contain significant music from throughout Kuti's career, from his highlife and R&B sides, to his full-on experiments that wed funk, jazz, and African rhythms in a completely integrative sound that became his invention: Afrobeat. Disc one includes "Highlife Time," cut by his first band Koola Lobitos in Los Angeles between 1964 and 1968. "Viva Nigeria" and "Lover" are from those same sessions but the bands are different -- these are the earliest recordings by Nigeria 70 and Africa 70. "Jeun Ko Ku (Chop and Quench)" was Kuti's first real hit in 1973, selling 200,000 copies in its first six months. Edited versions of "Johnny Just Drop" and "Upside Down," as well as the full-length "Egbe Mi O" (from a live date that featured Ginger Baker) are here, along with the self-titled second part (half the album) of Africa 70's "VIP." The second disc carries mostly edits from some of Africa 70's and Africa 80's best-known tunes, though some of these -- "Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense," "Beasts of No Nation," and "Shuffering and "Shmiling" -- are over 12 minutes long. The two outliers -- "Zombie" and "Colonial Mentality" -- are excellent readings by the musical's Fela! Band. The latter features Femi Kuti leading the group in a blistering extended version, live at the Kuti family's New Afrika Shrine. The fact that the show band covers two tunes here does not detract from the recording's significance. As a soundtrack it works wonderfully. As a musical introduction its lack of source documentation is bit of a drawback, but that's a small complaint. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released January 1, 1985 | Comet Records

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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 2013 | Knitting Factory Records

Recorded in 1969 under duress courtesy of the Department of Immigration and Naturalization, the Los Angeles Sessions are among the earliest glimpse of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's developing Afrobeat sound. What makes this release different from much of his recorded work is the length and number of songs: ten tracks, average length 4:39. Unusual, since most Fela material is 15 minutes or more. The foundation of this music is still the classic highlife sound, but there are influences here that bespeak Fela's absorption with funk and soul. In fact, the opening track, "My Lady Frustration," sounds so much like James Brown, you'd swear it was Jimmy Nolen playing guitar and Clyde Stubblefield on the drums. A good intro for Fela neophytes, but by no means the only Fela recording you should own. Also, tracks like "Nigeria" show how important radical politics were in informing his sound. © John Dougan /TiVo