Fela was the founder and king of Afrbeat, and an inspiration to acts as diverse as fellow Nigerian Lagbaja, and US prog rock duo The Mars Volta (Yes!!). Sadly he succumbed to AIDS related complications in 1997. Fitting then that this tribute CD raises money for AIDS relief in Africa. The CD liner notes talk extensively on this.
Chock full of a diverse array of musical talent; Nile Rogers, Macy Gray, D'Angelo, Sade, The Roots, Les Nubians, Meshell Ndegeocello, Femi Kuti, Baaba Maal and Cheikh Lo to name a few. Most of the songs are reinterpretations of songs by Fela in the artists own unique style, usually arranged differently from the originals. Fela's original vocals are interspersed during interludes. An excellent blend of African meets African American.
`Water no get enemy' featuring Femi, Macy Gray, Nile Rogers, Roy Hargrove and D'Angelo stays faithful to the original; shuffling beats, rich percussion, and lots of blaring horns. It's a real treat hearing Macy and D'Angelo singing in pidgin English.
The vocals of Sade's `By your side' are imposed on a shuffling dubby Afrobeat rhythm. Echo-ey vocals and rich percussion, dreamy sounding. Excellent!
`So be it' featuring Kelis on vocals is the other non Fela composition. It is a calming R&B song with some African sounding backing vocals and great horns played by Ugochi Nwaogwugwu.
`No Agreement' by Res, Tony Allen, Ray Lema, Baaba Maal, Positive Black Soul & Archie Shepp is another outstanding performance. Great jazzy breaks and wonderful horns.
`Zombie (part 1)' is a bouncy hip hop/Afrobeat affair featuring Bugz in the Attic & Wunmi, with lyrics about the robot mentality of soldiers blindly taking orders from above. Written during the days of military rule in Nigeria.
`Zombie (part 2)' with Nile Rogers and Roy Hargrove is an excellent instrumental piece, closer to the original. An energetic horn laden, percussion rich number, with faint electronic tweets.
Another outstanding piece is `Shuffering and shmiling' featuring Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Bilal and Jorge Ben. Transformed with skittery beats and some skat singing and rapping, and horns that stay true to the original. Beautiful!
Each song is musically rich and captivating in it's own way, be it `Gentleman', `Shakara/lady (parts 1 and 2)' with excellent guitar work, talking drums and razor sharp horns, to `Trouble sleep, yanga wake am'. The attention to detail is astounding, everything in its right place.
A beautiful CD showing the wealth and beauty of African music. Not meant to replace the originals at all, and a perfect tribute to the king.