In response to popular demand Knitting Factory Records is reissuing more albums from its series by the Nigerian icon and Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti.
The best known song on 1973's Afrodisiac is "Jeun Ko Ku," a satire about gluttony and Fela's first major hit in West Africa. In broken English, the title means "chop and quench," which, in turn, means "eat and die" in standard English. Lyrically, the standout track is the closing "Je'Nwi Temi" ("don't gag me"), a critique of the Nigerian political/military establishment and a defence of free speech. Fela vows that he will always tell it like it is, no matter what. This proved to be prophetic stuff, given the police and army assaults, intended to silence him, which were just around the corner.
"Alu Jon Jonki Jon" draws on the interaction between animals and humans that is part of Yoruba mythology, in a tale about a dog who betrays his friends. Like many of Fela's lyrics of the period, the lyric employs parable and metaphor to encourage ethical conduct in everyday life. In "Eko Ile," Fela sings that there is no place like home (Eko was the pre-colonial name of Lagos).
Afrodisiac was recorded at EMI's Abbey Road studios in London. According to the original sleeve credits, the album was produced by Jeff Jarratt. Fela only infrequently employed outside producers on his albums. Sometimes the results were excellent: British dub master Dennis Bovell's Live In Amsterdam (1983); Ginger Baker's psychedelia-tinged He Miss Road (1975); and Wally Badarou's Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense (1986). On another occasion it was spectacularly bad: Bill Laswell's remix and overdubbing of Army Arrangement (1985), made while Fela was in jail in 1984 on currency smuggling charges. Friends smuggled a cassette of Laswell's version into Fela. Listening to it, he said later, was "worse than being in prison.' On Afrodisiac, Jeff Jarratt was clearly working under Fela's close direction. The sound is classic Africa 70: punchy, raw, "live in the studio."
|1. Alu Jon Jonki Jon|
|2. Chop And Quench|
|3. Eko Ile|
|4. Je'Nwi Temi (Don't Gag Me)|