Fela Kuti

Upside Down/Music of Many Colours

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This two-on-one-disc CD reissue brings together a couple of the more unusual offerings in Fela's discography. Upside Down, released in 1976, is the usual two-song, half-hour deal, the songs beginning with several minutes of instrumental solo trades before the socially conscious lyrics enter. The song "Upside Down" itself, however, is sung not by Fela but by Sandra Akanke Isidore. She was a woman who Fela met during his stay in the United States at the end of the 1960s, and who is credited with helping to elevate Fela's own social awareness and ethnic identity. It's basically like hearing a Fela track with a different vocalist, then. Although Isidore's pipes aren't as strong as Fela's, it makes for something refreshingly different in the midst of all those similar two-song Fela releases from the mid-'70s. The other track, "Go Slow," is a little jazzier, and puts less emphasis on lyrics than most Fela tracks, with the singing largely limited to chants that punctuate the instrumental arrangement. On Music of Many Colours, Fela collaborated with American jazz/soul crossover vibraphonist Roy Ayers. Ayers wrote and sang one of the two lengthy tracks that comprised the album, "2000 Blacks Got to Be Free." Musically, the match didn't work out that great here, putting Fela's Afro-funk ensemble to a disco beat, though the lyrical advocacy of African unity fit in with Fela's usual lyrical preoccupations. Fela takes the vocal and compositional chores for the album's other song, "Africa Centre of the World," which is like a customary Fela track decorated by Ayers' vibes flourishes, and chained to a rather more conventional Western beat.

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