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Erykah Badu Selects Her Favorite Fela Kuti Songs

Fela.net's on-going artist playlist series recruits Erykah Badu to share her favorite Fela Kuti tracks in a Spotify mix.


""Beasts of No Nation" is maybe one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard," writes Erykah Badu about one of her selections for Fela.net’s on-going artist playlist series. For her favorite Fela Kuti picks, Erykah mixed classics with rarer cuts from the afrobeat pioneer.

Erykah also provides detailed descriptions for her selections to Fela.net: “Coffin For Head of State” (“I played this song on blast from my balcony on repeat when I moved into this house to let the neighbors know what type of party it was“), “No Agreement” (“No matter how many baths I take, after this song the funk remains”) and “Beasts of No Nation” (“The album cover had 3 of the former presidents depicted as blood sucking demons. Now that was brave for Africa in the 80s, to say the least”).

Like we previously mentioned in The Roots Of… Erykah Badu, the singer has had a career-long relationship with Afrocentric references, from lyrical allusions to her personal iconography of ankhs. Even her adopted surname ‘Badu’ is a suffix used for the 10th-born child among Ghana’s Akan people.

Stream Erykah Badu’s Fela Kuti playlist below and read her complete track descriptions underneath. For more, check out playlists from QuestloveBlack ThoughtTalib KweliBrian Eno, Rich Medina, and Ziggy Marley.

1. “Coffin For Head of State” because the message is so clear and profound. I feel like I’m walking with them. It’s a funeral processional that ends on the steps of the police station. Ha. I played this song on blast from my balcony on repeat when I moved into this house to let the neighbors know what type of party it was. I had no furniture.

2. “No Agreement” because the groove is a HESI. A chant. A prayer. Locked on the 1. No matter how many baths I take, after this song the funk re mains. Yes RE & MAINS is two words.

3. “Army Arrangement” is a classic . Nice obscure piano solo. I appreciate it’s imperfections. Hypnotic.

4. “Je’Nwi Temi (Don’t Gag Me)” —

5. “Beasts of No Nation” is an epic piece. Maybe one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It was strong and very very social politically forward. Lol. The album cover had 3 of the former presidents depicted as blood sucking demons. Now that was brave for Africa in the 80’s, to say the least. Ironically the chord progressions are very beautiful. It’s an emotional piece.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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