Fela and Afrika 70 - Zombie - Review
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critics' view

The 23rd new music album from the uber-prolific 37-year-old Afrobeat star proved to be a nightmare for him, despite being hailed by his people. He had never been afraid to criticize the politicians of the day, and for a long time, he had been agitated by the constant raids on his property by the authoritarian military dictatorships which controlled the nation’s oil-revenues but did little to improve the lives of the ordinary folks. With utter contempt for the soldiers of Nigeria, Fela Kuti put his life on the line with this scathing attack, equating them to nothing more than mindless morons:

Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go (Zombie), Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop (Zombie), Zombie no go turn, unless you tell am to turn (Zombie), Zombie no go think, unless you tell am to think (Zombie)

In the eyes of Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, this was a step too far. For his troubles, his mother was murdered and his commune was destroyed by the military. Wikipedia takes up the story:

The album was a smash hit with the people and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic (a commune that Fela had established in Nigeria), during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Kuti was severely beaten, and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries. The Kalakuta Republic was burned, and Kuti's studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. Kuti claimed that he would have been killed if it were not for the intervention of a commanding officer as he was being beaten. Kuti's response to the attack was to deliver his mother's coffin to the main army barrack in Lagos and write two songs, “Coffin for Head of State” and “Unknown Soldier”, referencing the official inquiry that claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier.

Ooft. Count yourself lucky if you’re living in the free world today…

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