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15 years after his death, Fela Kuti’s The Best of the Black President 2 - The Deluxe Edition, which was released on Feb. 5 from Knitting Factory Records, shows that Kuti’s legacy lives on. His message of speaking against the injustices that pervaded Nigeria during his life were even powerful enough to make it to Broadway as the hit musical “Fela!” directed by Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones, has received 11 Tony nominations and three awards. “Fela!” is currently on a world tour visiting DC, Chicago, LA, Miami, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta, Tucson, Cleveland, Charlotte, NC, Tempe, AZ and Schenectady. Backed by Kuti fans Jay-Z as well as Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith with Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child joining the company on tour, Kuti’s message endures. The 2-CD collection with the foreword written by hit R&B/rap artist Akon, contains a throng of songs of Kuti conveying accounts of Nigerian oppression as well as the ills Nigerian women faced among other issues.
Disc 1 includes 1975’s “Everything Scatter” which showcases Kuti’s signature Afrobeat sound. With firm drumming, forceful alto saxophone play and a restless rhythm along with Kuti’s broken English lyrics, listeners will be able to feel his frustration at the turmoil his country is embroiled in. “Expensive Sh*t,” is a musical first-hand account from Kuti about the police unsuccessfully attempting to charge him with possession of marijuana. The rhythm is percussion heavy, which could have been Kuti’s musical way of expressing the weight of oppression and the sprinting beat could make listeners envision Kuti fleeing from his accusers. An extended version of “Sorrow Tears and Blood,” was inspired by the South African apartheid regime’s squashing of the Soweto uprising in 1976. It’s another percussion-laden track accompanied with what sounds like swift keyboard playing high toned notes.
Disc 1 also has 1992’s “Underground System (Part 2,)" which encompasses Kuti’s final period of recording. It was inspired by his friend, Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara’s assassination. It begins with thunderous chanting and impassioned drumming. Then, Kuti’s deep voice starts singing in broken English as others chant “Bang! Bang!” The combination of the chanting and the drumming makes for a haunting composition. “Black Man’s Cry” starts off disc 2. It opens with Kuti yelling and what sounds like a trombone, giving the song an uncharacteristically big band vibe.On “Yellow Fever,” Kuti speaks about the practice of skin-bleaching among Nigerian women. Yet, surprisingly, the upbeat air of what sounds like an acoustic guitar brings a buoyant flow to the song despite its serious message.
So, in conclusion, The Best of the Black President 2 - The Deluxe Edition by Fela Kuti is a 2-CD assortment of tracks that express one man’s need to alert the world to struggles in the angst ridden land of Nigeria and despite his passing, his musical missive is being passed on for new generations to hear and take to heart.