Sunday, November 1, 2009

Unknown Fela: Perambulator




By way of Undercover Black Man I learn that
Knitting Factory Records intends to remaster and reissue the "entire catalog" of Nigeria's late Afrobeat King Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in the next 18 months.

I'm wondering what the difference is between this project and the extensive Fela reissue that saw the light of day about 10 years ago. Not that I'm complaining, of course, but I can think of several Fela pressings that are not among the "entire catalog" of 45 recordings listed for reissue on the Knitting Factory website. A few years ago, before Likembe got started, I made these available to Uchenna Ikonne to post on his With Comb and Razor blog, and as these are no longer online, it seemed like a good idea to put them out there again.

Perambulator (Lagos International Records LIR 6) was released in 1983, following a rather fallow period in Fela's career, and just before the jailing on trumped-up charges that would bring him back to the world's attention. "Perambulator," the song, was apparently recorded a number of years earlier. Toshiya Endo writes in his Fela discography that it was the B side of the French issue of Shuffering and Shmiling (Barclay 829 710-1) in 1978 while "Frustration" was recorded as "Frustration of My Lady" in 1977 as the B side of an Afrodisia LP that was never released.

If you look closely at the credits on the back of Perambulator you'll see Lester Bowie credited as a "guest artist" (I think that's his trumpet solo about 6 minutes into "Frustration"). Bowie lived with Fela in Lagos for three months in 1977. A co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, he was also married for a time to Fontella Bass, who did the awesome 1965 R&B hit "Rescue Me." So contrary to the record cover and label, I don't think Perambulator is a "true" Egypt '80 record, as it was recorded several years earlier, when Fela's band was still called Afrika '70. The record was not included in the "official" Fela CD reissue of the late '90s, although it did come out combined with Original Sufferhead (Lagos International Records 2, 1981) on a CD in Japan in 1998, a pressing that is no longer available.

As to why Perambulator is not considered part of Fela's "official" canon, I suspect it was an unauthorized release. While it may be sub rosa it is certainly not sub-standard. "Frustration" in particular is a killer track. Enjoy!

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti & Afrika '70 - Perambulator

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti & Afrika '70 - Frustration

You can download Perambulator as a zipped file here. In my next two posts I'll discuss two more "unknown" Fela releases.



8 comments:

Rico said...

John, I don't always take time to read the information that you post with your music, but this one about Fela tickled my curiosity (sorry if this is not proper english : not my mother language). Once again, thank you for sharing all your knowledge about african music. You (an others who post music on their blog) made me discover so many great styles which are today among my favorites specialy highlife, swahili rumba ...

gilhodges said...

Drastic fantastic! I bought this at Sikhulu's Record Shack when it first came out. Always wondered about the sources of the tunes. About a year ago, the mighty Kinabalu over at Inconstant Sol posted Lester Bowie's "African Children," which includes his "For Fela." Check it here.

Perrata 2000 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bombshelter Slim said...

I recall when this came out, I had walked into Black Swan Records in Vancouver (when they were at 4th and MacDonald), asked Ken when the new Lester Bowie album was coming out, he pointed up to the speakers mounted on the wall and said "that's Lester playing there!". As a result I was introduced to Fela's music. This is definitely NOT a "sub-par" Fela album.

madrotter said...

bought this one years ago, never knew that lester bowie was on this one! thanks for that piece of info1

bela said...

You might like this one too

http://rapidshare.com/files/296376476/Nigeria70Lagos09.rar

http://avaxhome.ws/music/ethnic_world/lagosnagosd.html

MuzikJunky said...

Universal Music doesn’t control all of Fela’s releases—just 45 of them. Perambulator is, obviously, one of the non-Universal titles. The Knitting Factory releases are just repackaged under license from Universal for the US market and are from the same source as the 1999–2001 versions. Peace.

beatvicar said...

hey, nice blog. point of info - Perambulator is definitely an early Egypt 80 track and therefore can't be from the 'Frustration' era. Note it's Nikolas 'Ringo' Avom on drums, not Tony Allen - he has a characteristic swing you can also hear in 'Original Sufferhead' and the studio version of 'Power Show' - and generally the sound of the band is identical to that on 'Sufferhead'. Therefore it's about '80-'81 vintage.