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Song of the Day: Fela Kuti, “Sorrow, Tears and Blood”

I featured Fela Kuti’s “I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)” as a Song of the Day back during the BP oil spill, with which it had a certain resonance. I love Fela – here’s another one of my favorite songs from the creator of the Afrobeat sound…

Fela Kuti, “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” – originally from the album of the same name (1977); this is from The Best Best of Fela Kuti

Vintage Fela. Extended instrumental intro that builds up to the song proper. Fela’s distinctive vocal stylings—singing, speaking, chanting, shouting, moaning—and in this song imitating a siren. Call-and-response type exchanges with his backing singers and band. A lot of the sounds come out of Fela’s engagement with American R&B and funk, from his time in the States in the late 1960s—that distinctive organ and Fela’s honking sax work, here some of his best. A terrific mid-tempo groove—all of Fela’s music is clearly meant for dancing—driven by typically excellent and complex percussion. Pointed political commentary, in this case dealing with, among other things, an attack by the Nigerian army on the compound where Fela lived and performed. “Them leave sorrow, tears and blood. / Their regular trademark.” 10 minutes long.

Like many of Fela’s songs, “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” originally comprised the whole of one side of an LP, with one of his greatest songs, “Colonial Mentality” (13 minutes long), as Side 2—making it one of the most powerful albums of Fela’s recording career. Other songs, such as “I.T.T (International Thief Thief),” are split into two and take up both sides of a record—and clock in at more than 20 minutes total. All these albums are now available in remastered editions that feature the contents of two of the original albums on one disc, but the various compilations of Fela’s work provide the best way into his music for those who are new to it.

For more on Fela, check out the official Fela website or the WikiPedia entry. (And let me give a shout out to my homie, Trevor Schoonmaker, who curated an exhibit on Fela and wrote Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway.)

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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