Friday, October 13, 2006

Afrobeat and Beasts of No Nation

Time for your Beasts of No Nation soundtrack! Well, it turns out there really is one. The epigraph for the novel is a quote from Fela Kuti, the founding father of Afrobeat-- "This uprising will bring out the beast in us"-- and the title of the book also corresponds to a 1989 Fela Kuti recording: Beasts of No Nation, so a little exploration is in order. No samples at link above, though there's a bit at the end of this BBC Radio profile of Fela, but you can find lyrics for the song here.

A profile of Fela from National Geographic World Music describes the musician's contributions to African music as well as his political activism,
Singing neither in Yoruba nor the King's English, Fela delivered his musical jeremiads in pidgin English, so as to reach as wide an audience as possible. And he was loved for it by the masses, who made him a star. But his broadsides against the corruption and of General Olusegun Obasanjo's military government made him some enemies in very high places, and he suffered repeated harassment, including a full scale attack on his Lagos compound (which he called "The Kalakuta Republic") in 1977. Over 1,000 soldiers set fire to the premises and beat anyone they could lay their hands on, including Fela's 82-year-old mother, who was thrown from a window and later died from her injuries. Fela himself suffered fractures in his skull, arm and leg. In his lifetime Fela would undergo 356 court appearances and three separate imprisonments, including a 1985-87 sentence on trumped-up currency charges that made him a poster boy for Amnesty International.
To round out our Beasts soundtrack, Fela's son Femi Kuti, also a musician/activist, is a contributor toth Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project. You can view a video promotion for the project here. And you might want to check out Ceasefire from Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier from Sudan, now a spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. Finally there is Uganda musician Samite's Embalasasa-- NPR profile and samples here. This is the one most appealing to me musically, perhaps because the focus of the album is music as a "weapon of healing" for child soldiers.

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