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Coffin for Head of State / Unknown Soldier Import


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Amazon's Fela Kuti Store

Music

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Biography

“Fela will live forever!” That was the anthem chanted by the million strong mourners as they paid their last respects at Fela’s funeral. Mention his name, not just in Nigeria, but anywhere in Africa and you can be sure that it will raise a smile and the soft, fond utterance “Fela!” The same can be said for the hip-hop universe, whether in New York, Tokyo, Sydney ... Read more in Amazon's Fela Kuti Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD (4 April 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Mca
  • ASIN: B00000JOEW
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 599,999 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Coffin For Head Of State - Fela Kuti
2. Unknown Soldier (Part 1&2) - Fela Kuti

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Mar. 2001
Format: Audio CD
Two LPs on one disc may seem excessive, but in fact what you pay for are two twenty minute tracks, and what tracks they are. The rhythm section sets the tone for Fela's powerful call and response vocals, and some awesome brass licks (which show there influence in spades on the likes of Common and the Roots) slide smoothly into the groove. Even the liner notes are excellent, giving a background to the LP as well as a thorough introduction to Kuti's life and work for the unanniciated. Though a conversion to CD gives the tracks a slightly over-long feel, with no side breaks, the music contained on this package is well worth the effort.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Speaking truth to power while having a splendidly good time 6 July 2008
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This CD is a powerful combination of great music and civic dedication. In the 1970s, the Nigerian musician Fela Kuti created a new genre called Afrobeat, where funk and jazz instrumentation were wedded to local traditional rhythms with vocals in Nigerian pidgin English. Everything takes its time--few of Fela's songs were under the 10 minute mark and many far surpassed it--and the listener quickly feels at ease in the gradual buildup. Fela was the ultimate maker of chill-out music, but far from being a lightweight like so many contemporary acts in that genre (Thievery Corporation, for example), he had a huge amount of musical integrity and was always looking to extend his sound.

But besides being a genuinely hip musician, Fela was a voice against the misdeeds of the Nigerian government. He had a number of small brushes with the state as the years went by, but when he released a song called "Zombie" in 1977 that painted the Nigerian military as a bunch of mindless puppets, the powers that be sought to put him down for good. Over a thousand soldiers stormed his neighbourhood, arsoned his home, raped local women, beat Fela to within an inch of his life, and threw his mother to her death from a second-story window. When the people demanded an investigation, the government kept a lid on it and claimed that the murder was done by an "unknown soldier".

The first song on this disc, "Unknown Soldier" (1979) has Fela recounting the whole sad story after 15 minutes of smoking development. While he keeps an even tone of restrained anger for most of his narration, once he gets to the matter of his mother's death his voice movingly breaks. His lyrics end with a clever metaphor of the government investigation as so much smoke and mirrors: "Dem start magic: Dem seize my house, wey they there born. Dem seize my land, dem drive all the people wey live in area: two thousand citizens, dem make them all homeless now. / Dem start magic, dem start magic. Dem bring flame, dem bring hat, dem bring rabbit, dem conjure, dem bring smoke, dem they fall, dem conjure, spirit catch them. Dem they say: 'Unknown Soldier 921'".

In "Coffin for Head of State" (1981) Fela attacks religious authorities in Nigeria for keeping silent in the fact of all this violence. The title refers to a publicity stunt where Fela had his mother's coffin carried to the gates of the Nigerian military's headquarters. Here the chorus of "Amen" resounds among the chorus of Fela's wives as he mocks the vacuous rhetoric of both the Christian priests and Muslim imams of his country.

It's a shame these Wrasse Records reissues of Fela's discography are difficult to come by in the United States; they can be found at nearly any big record shop in Europe. Still, it's well worth paying import prices if you have to, between this is powerful music and will find a treasured place in your collection.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Unknown Soldier: My Favorite Fela Song 3 Feb. 2006
By Emilio D. Lia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Keep in mind, I am a hard-core Fela fan. I love this CD, especially Unknown Soldier. I am not sure though if this is a good CD for the uninitiated. Perhaps, the "Best Of" or something like that. I think songs like Gentleman or Lady are better if you've never heard Fela before. Remember to start slow and work your way up.

Unknown Soldier is a song that goes beyond anything you can imagine. It is 31 minutes long, and super-dope. I don't know what to say, it's like describing the Grand Canyon to someone who's never seen a picture of it. They walk away with a vague understanding, but no idea of its true powers.

Just curious if anyone else does this....I never turn a Fela song off once it has started. It has to play itself out. I can leave the house but the stereo has to stay on. Anybody else do that?
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Striking Music 19 Oct. 2001
By P Magnum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Fela Kuti was more than just a musician, he was a spokesman for the people of his native Nigeria. He brought their concerns to light and gave them a voice on the world stage. "Coffin For The Head Of State" and "Unknown Soldier" are stirring pieces of Afrobeat jazz with intricate arrangements and experimental sounds. But they also provide a scathing commentary on the Nigerian leaders of state. These two songs are compelling on a musical and thought provoking level.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Simply touching 12 July 2000
By Abolaji Ogunshola - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I would agree with the other reviewers but I think they have it the wrong way round - while "Unknown Soldier" as a title is more famous, the better song is "Coffin For Head of State". His chorus would actually make you think this was a Christian religious song if you didn't know better. It is quite stirring to hear how Fela describes one of the problems most people have with the apparent contradiction between the Christian philosphies of ascetism and giving and the actual behavior of Christian leaders, who are in many case affluent beyond belief.
He also accuses the leaders of Nigeria of using religious authority to back up thier statements, thereby getting people to agree with them not by reasoning, but by yielding to the authority of God.
Kind of sad that Obasanjo outlived this man.
If you are interested in Nigerian history, both songs are related to events surrounding the destruction of Fela's home and the murder of his mother. IT was beleived that the attack on the hous, carried out by armed soldiers, was an order from the higher ranks of the military, whose leader was General Obasanjo. "Unknown Soldier" is a reference to the murderer of his mother ( she was thrown down a flight of stairs and died from multiple injuries) and "Coffin for the Head of State" is a dirge like song that describes the droping off of a mock coffin by Fela and his followers at the official residence of the Head of State of Nigeria, who was then General OBasanjo.
You have to like Jazz to have an appreciation for the music, but if you are a Fela fan, this is a CD you can buy without any regrets. IT is kind of sad that these songs were written in the late 70s and early 80s and are still relevant to the Nigerian situation today.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
One of Fela's best 30 July 2000
By "stbob" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I would say this is Fela's best piece of work, were it not for C.B.B., a 26-minute lush jewel filled with unusual horn harmonies and haunting rhythms. This is a great example of how Fela was able to threaten and frighten the "government-of-the-week" of Nigeria using only music, and why his music was such a force. I was lucky enough to hang with his band backstage at Kilimanjaro in Washington one night in the 80s, as I was doing some work with the opening band. What a beautiful scene they created, wherever they went. Of all the works listed on Amazon, this is the one to buy, unless C.B.B. appears.
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