“Music is the weapon of the future/music is the weapon of the progressives/music is the weapon of the givers of life,” Fela Anikulapo Kuti famously declared. Known for pioneering the musical genre Afrobeat, as well as being a multifaceted performer and instrumentalist, his shows at his Afrika Shrine in Lagos – together with his band Afrika 70 and later Egypt 80 – remain legendary. But Kuti was also one of the leading political figures of his era. A perennial agitator and human rights activist, which manifested itself through highly-charged lyrics and cover art, his barbed criticisms of the Nigerian government lead to multiple arrests. Kuti passed away in 1997, but his zeal for addressing injustice, and the crafted, vibrant ways in which he delivered those missives, lives on.
Today, the influence of his idiosyncratic sound can be found across a host of contemporary music spheres: there are samples in tracks by the likes of Missy Elliot, Nas, Common and Pete Rock, there’s House duo Masters at Work’s “Tribute to Fela” EP. It appears in the work of multifaceted DJs such as Antal, Floating Points and Hunee, as well as the electric piano nuances of Kamaal Williams’s work. Meshell Ndegeocello has covered his songs, which often ran close to forty minutes long, while French indie pop stars Phoenix have taken inspiration from his grooves and UK-Nigerian artist Obongjayar from his politically-fuelled pop sensibilities.
For Spring/Summer 2019, Carhartt WIP has joined the list of those eager to pay tribute to Fela Kuti, with capsule collection created in close co-operation with the Fela Anikulapo Kuti Estate, his former manager Rikki Stein and Knitting Factory Records. The designs take cues from his iconic album artwork, such as his 1975 release “Expensive Shit,” while also incorporating references to tracks like “Ye Ye De Smell” and the recording “Live In Detroit 1986.” These motifs are applied across a range of pieces, from graphic t-shirts and bucket hats, to shirts and caps.
To accompany the collection, the out of print “Live In Detroit 1986” album will also be re-released on vinyl, limited to 500 copies. Meanwhile, Carhartt WIP, Dazed and NTS Radio will once again collaborate on a short film, which sees London-based artist Akinola Davies to the Nigerian capital Lagos together with rapper Obongjayar. The result is the experimental “One Day Go Be One Day,” which takes cues from Fela Kuti’s spiritual roots.
To soundtrack this collaboration we asked NTS Radio founder Femi Adeyemi to prepare a Carhartt WIP Radio show featuring his favorite Fela Kuti tunes. As usual, we also sat down to chat with the London-born, LA-based creative about his relation to the Nigerian icon. For those seeking a deeper insight into the life and work of Fela Kuti, we thoroughly deeply recommend the documentary “Music Is The Weapon” which explores his lively Kalakuta Republic, his political struggle with British-colonizers and the local government, his musical outlook and his love of table tennis.
1. Fela Kuti - Power Show
2. Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70 - Mr. Grammarticalogylisationalism Is The Boss
3. Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70 - Colonial Mentality
4. Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70 - Yellow Fever
5. Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70 - Excuse 0
6. Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70 - Vhy Black Man Dey Suffer