Album: Fela Kuti

The Underground Spiritual Game, WRASSE/UNIVERSAL
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The Independent Culture

Mixed by Chief Xcel of Blackalicious, this compilation extends from the Sixties Highlife style of "Ololufe Mi" - recorded when Fela was still using his slave-name of Ransome-Kuti - to the majestic big-band Afrobeat grooves, such as the 17-minute "Africa Centre of the World", that marked his Eighties revival, by which time he had adopted the name Anikulapo-Kuti. Xcel has fused the tracks with stage announcements and interview segments from the documentary film Music is the Weapon of the Future, featuring Fela reflecting upon the revolutionary role of music. It adds up to a portrait of Fela as the African Miles Davis, a dominating presence conducting his band through vamps of electric piano or horn, building up massive musical momentum, and suffering repressive antagonism from authorities frightened of his power as a political figurehead. The album is not, however, intended as a "Best Of"; for a more exhaustive portrait of the man, listeners are directed to another box set, also released to coincide with a Barbican retrospective season, which includes vital pieces such as "ITT", "Sorrow Tears and Blood" and "Water No Get Enemy", along with a DVD of the Music is the Weapon documentary.