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Zombie by Fela Kuti []



Devoted followers of Fela Kuti include ?uestlove, Jay Z, David Byrne, Baaba Maal, Ginger Baker and Vampire Weekend. In recent years, Knitting Factory Records [link updated 2020-05-05] has been a key player in creating what one might call a revival… or better yet, a “Fela-bration” to honor the late Afrobeat star. Album reissues, magazine features, curated boxed sets, a documentary and even a Broadway show have been unleashed upon us adoring fans within the last couple of years. Our wallets are sad, but ears have never been happier.
The best way to describe Afrobeat to those unfamiliar is vocal based song with influences in jazz, funk and African highlife music. The reissued Zombie cd contains four such (lengthy) tunes with Fela’s excellent musicianship and commanding vocals. Chanted call and response singing, frenetic, pulsating rhythms, stellar percussion, a deep brass sound and an electricity (that no words can do justice) fill the album as well.
Zombie, like many of Fela’s albums, is a packed with a strong political message. The cover depicts the artist performing in concert with a juxtaposition of faceless, Nigerian soldiers meant to look like zombies. This 1977 release was a massive hit, but its radical lyrics and the mentioned cover art angered government officials. As a result, an attack was ordered on Fela’s commune. Sadly, he was severely beaten and his grandmother was tossed out of a window and would later pass away due to the injury. Fela Kuti lived on though and did not stop letting his voice be heard until his death in 1997.