In the hopes that a co-sign from Sean Carter and Willow Smith’s dad will suddenly stir your desire to cop a half-dozen coasters that you can illegally download via the magic of Google search, Knitting Factory Records has made an MP3 of “Zombie” available to you, discerning blog readers of the galaxy. I have yet to see Fela! in New York, but having heard the soundtrack, it’s clear that no matter how much igbo that Antibalas puff, they are not going to match Africa ’70.
And though he has the requisite Boflex abs, Sahr Ngaujah isn’t going to make you forget the man who carried death in his pouch — even if you’re like me and too young to remember him. “Zombie” is often regarded as Fela’s second best record. I disagree (for me, it goes “Expensive Shit,” “Coffin For Head of State..” on down), but it’s undoubtedly one of his best and most historically notable. Likening the ruling army to zombies never endears one to the head of state, especially when you’re considering a run for President and living lawlessly on your polygamist compound.
The American media has spent the last 30 years lionizing John Lennon for lying nude in Amsterdam with his wife, while writing songs for the dangerously high and the King of Queens demographic. Full of unalloyed sedition and the self-righteousness of a seer, Fela triggered a raid that led to a savage beating, the fatal defenestration of his mother, and the arson of his studio and musical library. The incident would lead him to wheel his mother’s coffin before Obasanjo, and record “Coffin for Head of State,” which is the closest afro-beat comes to “Hit Em Up.” Though he remains in no danger of replacing ‘Pac-as-Christ on dorm room stucco.
Perhaps the greatest crime of all is that Obasanjo still draws breath, never punished for the depravity and violence he unleashed, holding a bogus nobleman’s title and allowed to erode slowly. Fela’s been buried for almost a decade and a half, but you already knew that.
MP3: Fela Kuti-“Zombie”