The entire discography of Fela Kuti is all essential listening, but 'Zombie' is a high watermark that few other releases match.
We have managed to get our hands on a few rare represses of key Fela releases, with 'Gentleman', 'Expensive Shit', 'Roforofo Fight' and 'He Miss Road'. All of them are brilliant in their own right, but 'Zombie' is the key album to show Fela at a creative peak and in the middle of political strife.
This inflammatory release is a seething critique of Nigeria's ruling military regime in the 1970's, which resulted in Fela's commune/studio being raided, fired upon and burned by a party of a thousand soldiers. Fela himself was shot, and his mother thrown from a window. The 12-minute afrobeat odyssey is a cornerstone of the genre for its signature style pioneered and mastered by Fela, and its melding of Jazz, funk, soul, poetry and politics.
The repeating refrain of 'Zombie' portrays the Nigerian military as mindless brutes, and over the track portrays them as childlike automatons, teasing them and provoking them to the ultimate attack on the Kalakuta Republic (declared independent from Nigeria, making it an attack on foreign grounds).
After the studio was burned, Fela became fully radicalised as both an artist and activist. He took 27 wives, ran for president and brought his music further into spacious experimentations (in a similar fashion to 'Bitches Brew'). 'Zombie' marks the defining point where Fela became the proactive visionary for the genre and his country, and it translates into the rhythmic genius and lyrical prowess of one of the best musicians of all time.
'Zombie' is available in the Store now.