It’s not uncommon here at The Joy of Violent Movement to pay some sort of tribute to artists I’ve admired and we continue that tradition by celebrating the great Fela Kuti’s birthday. As the forefather of Afrobeat, the uniquely Nigerian genre, which borrowed liberally from American funk and soul music and fused it with elements of Nigerian music and culture, Kuti’s influence has proven to be monumental across not just across Africa but across the entire world – although I imagine that he has seen greater fame in the West, 17 years after his death, than he would have ever really imagined. But Kuti has also managed to remain e a controversial and deeply complex figure. In fact, for every single detail of his life that many would think were righteous, there were others that were infuriating or downright strange – at least to Westerners.
YouTube is the home of a great wealth of things and if you get a chance, check out some of Fela’s live performances. He’s by far one of the most charismatic, larger-than-life figures of modern music. His music and message have remained and are just as powerful and necessary as ever. Plus that backing band – I doubt that any band can compete against them once they get that infectious groove going.
In honor of his birthday, check out the full 24 minute version of “International Thief Thief (I.T.T.)” which not only directly calls out specific people for being crooks, it describes and then brutally satirizes the insidious nature of corruption in every single level of Nigerian government and culture. In fact, this song angered officials to the point that they went and arrested him – one of countless times that they did so. And holy shit, what a groove to it.