Fela Kuti

Underground System/Just Like That

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This album contains one of Fela Kuti's most direct and suitably scathing political attacks. Backed by Egypt '80, Kuti's unrelenting cries for justice and equality are at the foreground of the A-side title track, "Underground System." The stretched-out instrumental sections contain fierce, tightly knit rhythms around which Kuti and company deliver an impassioned choral call and response during the verses. Most specifically, "Underground System" is a fable of the behind-the-scenes puppet mastery and indelible hypocrisy in African politics. The melody is trancelike in its repetition, and the driving beats allow room for Oyinade Adeniran (tenor sax) and Rilwan Fagbemi (baritone sax) to unleash a few vital blows -- which have the same impassioned intonations and open-ended improvisational skills as a Sonny Rollins or Gerry Mulligan. This track is stretched out to nearly a half hour and is notable for the occasional drop-dead pause -- which is practically startling in contrast to the continuously throbbing tribal funk. Kuti's vocals -- roughly translated in the liner notes of the 2001 reissue -- are as fervent as any of his previously overtly political statements. The same is true of his piano solos -- which are rooted in a similarly freewheeling and melodic approach as Thelonious Monk, Terry Adams, and Sun Ra. "Pansa Pansa" became one of the tunes most synonymous with the anti-establishment leanings of Kuti and his Egypt '80 band. Although Underground System/Just Like That was not issued until the early '90s, this track has roots that reach back to the mid-'70s -- when Kuti was at the height of his political and social influence. Many of his most ardent enthusiasts and supporters took "Pansa Pansa" -- which is translated as "more and more" -- to become their rallying cry. The tiresome double standard under which they lived likewise encouraged African youth to take up the gauntlet, and soon Fela became a known nuisance to the concurrently governing regime. [The 2001 CD reissue also adds the track "Confusion Break Bones (C.B.B.)" -- which had been initially issued on the ODOO (1989) long-player.]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 28:17
2 17:22
3 22:58
blue highlight denotes track pick