Arrest the Music!
Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: Indiana University Press
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The last time I presented part of what became this book at a conference, a few members of the audience referred in their responses to parts I had presented “two or three years ago.” It is humbling indeed to have a project so dedicatedly monitored by peers. I am grateful to all those members of the African Literature Association and the African Studies Association, both in the United States of...
1 Introduction "Living In The Interregnum": Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the Postcolonial Incredible
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The scene has stuck in my mind for over two decades now, but I can no longer remember whether I actually saw it or imagined it. Veteran watchers of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (1938–1997)—simply “Fela” to his fans—dismissed my “positivist” worries and instead wagered their reputations on its plausibility. Here then, the (in)famous spectacle: a half-literate of¤cer of the Nigerian army and...
2 The “Apolitical” Avant-Pop Hustler
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I have borrowed the military metaphor of the avant-garde—advance guard—to describe the first phase of Fela’s musical evolution as avant-pop—advance pop. By this I mean a form of popular music that is self-consciously experimental, new, and distinct from existing forms in its sociocultural context. Such music transgresses the boundaries of established styles, the meanings...
3 The Afrobeat Moralist
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It is now well known that Fela’s transformation to a socially conscious exponent of afrobeat began during his famous trip to the United States of America in 1969, though few actually had any idea what he was “transforming” from: an apolitical avant-pop hipster playing highlife jazz. Periods of musical, indeed, artistic, history always blur at the edges; let us note this as a humbling...
4 Dissident Tunes: The Political Afrobeat
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In 1982, Fela recalled for Carlos Moore his immediate goals on return from his famous American trip: “I came back home with the intent to change the whole system. I didn’t know I was going to have . . . such horrors! I didn’t know they were going to give me such opposition because of my new Africanism. How could I have known? As soon as I got back home, I started to preach....
5 Fela, Lagos, and the Postcolonial State
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In the entirety of its sonic repertoire, the language of its lyrics, the imagery in its soundscape, the countercultural mode of life within which it was created, and its implied and actual audience, the afrobeat of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is the quintessential music of the postcolonial megalopolis. Lagos, Nigeria,is the sprawling conurbation that served as the primary canvas upon which Fela...
6 On the Shop Floor: The Social Production of Afrobeat
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In this age of compact discs, MP3 players, and electronic music files exchanging hands on the Internet, the hegemonic conception of art as an object, a thing, a product, has never had seemingly better support. However, it is very unlikely that anyone would mistakenly apply that impoverished idea of art to Fela’s afrobeat. This in itself is part of the theoretical significance of...
7 Pedagogue, Pedagogy, and the Pedagogic Form
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Fela designed the sprawling composition “I.T.T.” (International Thief Thief) as a detailed expose of the insidious manner in which Africa is cheated of its immense wealth by Euro-American multinational corporations. Against a background chorus of “International Thief Thief!” and a chaotic din of complaints of lack of social services by the people, Fela’s voice, beefy and...
8 The Cosmopolitan Nativist: Fela and the Antinomies of Postcolonial Modernity
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The frank admission needs to be made right away that an even-tempered critique of such a multisided, spectacular popular artist as Fela who excites little but untethered passions is indeed a challenge. Popular encyclopedias and “worldbeat” pamphlets have had a field day with their one-dimensional, cash-and-carry profiles. These pretend to no higher purpose than advertisement, that...
9 The Political, the Libidinal
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Fela’s artistic practice, the composite of all the musical and extramusical exertions that go into the production of afrobeat as a musical genre and social stance, is constituted by two broad streams of thought and action that are often perceived as antithetical. On the one hand is Fela’s deep commitment, although it is admittedly shot through with inconsistencies, to oppositional...
10 Conclusion: Afrobeat after Fela
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Ancient lore has it that the Yoruba pantheon was originally composed of one entity, the primogenitor or original one, and its servant, Atunda, literally, recreation. As the deity was hoeing its farm on the slopes one day, Atunda rolled a huge boulder that smashed the original deity into a thousand and one fragments. Several of the scattered shards metamorphosed into the many different...
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Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 13 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2004