Fela Kuti
Zombie


4.5
superb

Review

by Adam Thomas STAFF
August 22nd, 2009 | 42 replies


Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Zombie is the quintessential Afrobeat recording.

Born to a middle class family in the most southwestern corner of Nigera in 1938, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a musical pioneer that laid the groundwork for, and perfected, Afrobeat. His first foray into music was in 1958, where at the age of 19 he was sent to London to follow in the footsteps of his two older brothers and become a doctor. Upon his arival, he became enamored by the British music scene and enrolled in the Trinity College of Music. There he formed his first band, Koola Lobitos. With Fela at the helm, Koola Lobitos played a rhythmic mix of swinging jazz and groovy funk, later to be bestowed the title of Afrobeat.

As the 60's rolled around Fela took his new Afrobeat sound across the pond. It was at this time where the young Nigerian discovered the blossoming Black Power movement, whose political ideals he would carry with him throughout the rest of his career. In the end of 1969 he was deported back to Nigera due to his political affiliations, and when he returned to his homeland he gathered musicians to form his backing band, dubbed the Afrika 70. Throughout the 1970's Fela's highly politicized recordings drew the ire of the Nigerian government, resulting in dozens of raids on his Kalakuta Republic compound. In 1975, one of these raids resulted became immortalized on his album Expensive Shit, that tells the story of how the Nigerian military planted marijuana on the band leader, who promptly swallowed the spliff and was then monitored while in prison by a guard waiting for him to let loose a deuce. He walked out of jail two days later after swapping shit with another inmate.

In 1977, Fela continued with his anti-militaristic message with the scathing Zombie. Musically, Zombie is the pinnacle of Afrobeat. Combining traditional african rhythms with bouncy post-bop jazz and the sweaty, down low vibe of American funk, it swings like no other album before it or after. Zombie's centerpiece is its self titled track. Fela and his Afrika 70 band, led by famed percussionist Tony Allen, have their funkified fusion down to a science. Fela's swingin' sax blends with the African beat of the congas and Tony Allen's kit, getting hips shaking from the moment he puts his lips to the reed. Lyrically, "Zombie" portrays those in the Nigerian army as faceless automatons who have sold their souls for orders. Sung in Pidgin English in order to be accessible to his lower-class fan-base, there is no way Fela's view of the enlisted man could be misinterpreted when he croons, "Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go/ Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop/ Zombie no go turn, unless you tell am to turn/ Zombie no go think, unless you tell am to think." He ends the Afrobeat classic by barking out, "Get ready! Halt! Order! Dismiss!" like a drill sergeant as his background singers call back with chants of "Zombie!."

The government's reaction to Zombie was swift and violent. Troops set his compound ablaze; destroying his music studio, all of his recordings, and the makeshift club at which he regularly performed. Also during the raid, Fela's mother was thrown from a window, and later died of the resulting injuries. Fela continued to stir up controversy with his politcal music and larger than life persona until his death from AIDS in 1997, most notably marrying twenty-seven women, mostly his background singers and dancers, in a massive ceremony in 1982.



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user ratings (74)
Chart.
4.3
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2009


17224 Comments


Listen to this, it's fucking good. Capiche?

ohcleverhansyou
August 22nd 2009


885 Comments


This sounds great. I know nothing about Afrobeat, except that I enjoy what I've heard.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2009


17224 Comments


I just added a stream of the title track (it might take a while to load)

Meatplow
August 22nd 2009


5524 Comments


I haven't heard this, Expensive Shit is a masterpiece to me though. Both the title track and Water No Get Enemy are so good.

I should go through an afrobeat phase i've been meaning to for a while.

xNintendoCorex
August 22nd 2009


1272 Comments


holy shitte, i would never have thought i'd see a fela review on sputnik. i basically grew up on fela due to my parents love of his style.
kudos!

Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2009


17224 Comments


I'm glad to see that some people on sputnik are Fela fans. While writing this I figured it would just fall on deaf ears. It's nice to be proven wrong.

joshuatree
Emeritus
January 12th 2010


3742 Comments


haven't heard this one yet but on a kuti kick

liledman
September 12th 2010


3826 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

grooves like a mofo. good review.

liledman
July 6th 2011


3826 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

indeed. he has a lot of great material.

pneumoniahawk93
August 28th 2011


275 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Simply genius. One of the greatest albums of all time. Makes me proud to be a Nigerian.

Meatplow
August 28th 2011


5524 Comments


niger please

FatChickIrl
September 3rd 2011


4096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ooooh yeah

FatChickIrl
September 4th 2011


4096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh man im feeling this

FatChickIrl
September 4th 2011


4096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

his mom got killed cuz of this record, thats fucked up

FatChickIrl
September 4th 2011


4096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i didnt read the review either lol i just wiki'd this nigga

sportsboy
March 3rd 2012


640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

what a fucking legend. this rips

Athom
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2012


17224 Comments


fela love! reppin'

Inveigh
March 3rd 2012


25025 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

um this sounds awesome and I'm upset I've never read this review or listened to this album

d/ling now

Azazzel
July 23rd 2012


138 Comments


I like the funk of your jib Afrobeat. Good stuff.

YankeeDudel
January 19th 2013


9313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

god damnit

Digging: The The - Soul Mining



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