For this review, We’ll be checking out the 1973 album Afrodisiac from the Nigerian Afrobeat composer Fela Kuti and backing band, The Africa ’70. Kuti is considered a pioneer of the Afrobeat genre and is responsible for it finding its way across the world. Kuti was an influence on the sound of the Beatles and kraut-rock bands like Cream and Neu! ,Cream Drummer Ginger Rogers was an avid fan of the genere and traveled to Nigeria to work with Kuti on the 1971 album Live! Roger’s journey around Africa with Kuti is showcased in the documentary Ginger Baker in Africa which is well worth a watch if you enjoy tour documentaries.
Fela Kuti along with being a musician is a fascinating man all to his own, a politically minded revolutionary who fought with the Nigerian government many times. While for this blogging experience we will be focusing on his music his life is worth checking out and reading about.
The album Afrodisiac is an insanely danceable 40 minutes, an album that I’m having trouble not getting up and grooving to while writing this review. Afrodisiac is a great entry point into the wonderful genre of Afrobeat. It features amazing horn blasts and drum rhythms that just make you want to get up and dance around! The short call and response lyrics make you want to shout along, these lyrics cover a wide range of topics such as consoling a friend over recent heartbreak(Alu Jon Jonki Jon) to political silencing (Je’nwi Temi)
The drum rhythms of the first song “Alu Jon Jonki Jon” continue through the whole album creating a unified experience that’s great for putting on during a party or just for a living room dance party. Afrodisiac does not feel like four separate songs but one united piece of music which is traditional of Afrobeat and its connected genres. These sections are divided by the change of the call and response lyrics which feel like mantras. The leitmotifs that continue through the entire piece make it feels like there’s no breaks in between tracks just a continuous movement from one to the next.
The album really gets going on the third track “Eko Ile” with its big shiny horn sections which ramp up on the horn work earlier in the album. It also gets faster and faster with Kuti’s lyrics feeling less like the chants and mantras of the earlier tracks and becoming screams and tired whispers. The tiredness of Kuti is apparent to a listener but like the listener he just wants to keep on dancing. The saxophone solo on this track is also a standout moment in the album as a whole.
The final track of the album is an amazing closer and really captures the feeling of a night of fun winding down even though you wish it wouldn’t picking up with the faster tempo of the previous track and running with it. It begins to slow right at perfect point and pulls the listener out of party mood with a wonderful drum sequence. This album is both a highlight and a great entry point in the not showcased enough (in America) genre of Afrobeat.
Recommended further listening:
Why Black Man Dey Suffer(1971) by Fela Kuti
Fresh Cream (1966) by Cream
Remain in Light(1980) by The Talking Heads, The band credits Afrodisiac as inspiration for this album
Literally anything featuring Africa 70’s Drummer Tony Allen, including the recent tribute to him from The Gorillaz “How Far?”