3 Songs, 30 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Like Sly Stone in America, Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti understood that the secret to protest music isn’t getting people to think so much as getting them to dance. Gentleman marked a peak of Kuti’s early ‘70s sound, mixing political commentary with simmering funk—a style as hypnotic as it was angry. A fascinating figure (proudly anticolonial, but also a polygamist who considered contraception un-African), Fela carried the contradictions of his politics into his music, a push-pull between freedom and restraint, Western influence and the total rejection thereof. “I no be gentleman at all,” Kuti sings midway through the title track, “I be Africa man original”—the presumption being that in the eyes of the European, one can’t be both.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Like Sly Stone in America, Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti understood that the secret to protest music isn’t getting people to think so much as getting them to dance. Gentleman marked a peak of Kuti’s early ‘70s sound, mixing political commentary with simmering funk—a style as hypnotic as it was angry. A fascinating figure (proudly anticolonial, but also a polygamist who considered contraception un-African), Fela carried the contradictions of his politics into his music, a push-pull between freedom and restraint, Western influence and the total rejection thereof. “I no be gentleman at all,” Kuti sings midway through the title track, “I be Africa man original”—the presumption being that in the eyes of the European, one can’t be both.

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