In response to popular demand Knitting Factory Records is reissuing more albums from its series by the Nigerian icon and Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti.
1973's Gentleman is the last of Fela's early 1970s transitional albums — it was followed by 1974's Alagbon Close, on which he brought all Afrobeat's signature ingredients together. On its title track, 1973's Gentleman presents one of Fela's most perfect lyrics, sung in call-and-response with the backing vocalists. "I no be gentleman at all," Fela sings, "Africa hot, I like am so; I know what to wear but my friend don't know; him put him socks him put him shoes; him put him pants him put him singlet; him put him trouser him put him shirt; him put him tie him put him coat; him come cover all with him hat; him be gentleman; him go sweat all over; him go faint right down....I no be gentleman at all-o; I be Africa man original." There's plenty more.
As so often with Fela's songs, "Gentleman" can be interpreted literally or as metaphor concerning a wider issue. In this case, Fela's topic is the colonialism-induced inferiority complex which led many in Africa's new governing elites to reject African style, concepts of beauty and modes of behaviour in favour of European imports. It was a subject Fela returned to on 1976's Yellow Fever, whose title track attacked the craze for skin whitening creams among African women, and 1977's Johnny Just Drop, whose title track lampooned the social pretensions of Africans returning home after working or studying abroad. Gentleman's other tracks, "Fefe Naa Efe" and "Igbe," have briefer lyrics. On "Fefe Naa Efe," an Ashanti motto from Ghana, Fela tells a woman dumped by her boyfriend that she must get over the heartache and move on.
|2. Igbe (Na Shit)|
|3. Fefe Naa Efe|