Album review: Fela Kuti - Live in Detroit 1986

By Scott Kara

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Fela Kuti live in Detroit 1986. Photo / Supplied
Fela Kuti live in Detroit 1986. Photo / Supplied

This double live album - made up of four tracks over an astounding 148 minutes of trance and dance-inducing bedlam - opens with a speech by the late Nigerian Afro-beat rebel. "In my country," he says, "things happen just like that. You mind your business, you don't do shit, you don't do nothing, next thing man, you are in prison, man, just like that."

And with that Kuti and his band Egypt 80 ease gently into Just Like That, before it blasts open with brass and then settles into an Afro-jazz groove for, oh, the next 20 minutes.

His speech is even more poignant given this was recorded soon after his release from prison for "currency smuggling", though the common belief is that his imprisonment was politically motivated.

The second disc opens with the brassy blasts and clap-along lather of Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense which, while taking your mind, body and soul to many different places during its beautifully rambling, often intense 40 minutes, saves the best for last with a wooden drum outburst that's like Cook Island drums only more dead and desperate.

The dour and agitating Beasts of No Nation brings the set to a close as it escalates into a squally, all-in finale.

Though this recording doesn't quite take you back to Kuti's live heyday it was a heady time nonetheless. And the mix of celebration and revelry with volatility and righteousness comes through in everything from the crowd's lippy interjections to the music that brims and boils before eventually blowing up.

Stars: 4/5


- NZ Herald

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