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Fela Kuti Before Afrobeat: Hear His Very Rare Highlife Recordings With Koola Lobitos

The 39-song 'Highlife-Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969)' collection highlights early recordings from Fela Kuti and his band Koola Lobitos.

Fela Kuti & Koola Lobitos (1965)


Last year, Knitting Factory Records released a limited edition 7” from Fela Kuti’s rare output with his first band Koola Lobitos. Now, the label is rolling out its reissue of the 39-song Highlife-Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969) collection from Fela’s early musical years with the group.

The songs Fela recorded with Koola Lobitos came before he’d even started playing afrobeat. The tracks on these three discs sound more like a hybrid of highlife, jazz and soul that hint at the afrobeat style Fela was about to unleash on the world. They also feature Fela almost exclusively playing the trumpet—before the switch to his famous saxophone.

“Fela, still singing mainly in Yoruba (with lyrics dealing mainly with family, romantic or moral issues), had yet to adopt the Broken English lyrics which would allow his music to be understood throughout Anglophone Africa (an inspired initiative), and Afrobeat’s naggingly mesmeric tenor guitars were also a couple of years off,” explains afrobeat historian Chris May. “But the tracks introduce several of the key characteristics of Fela’s mature style of the mid-1970s.”

Highlife-Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969), compiled by Toshiya Endo, will be released alongside a 12-page booklet on April 8 by Knitting Factory Records. Grab the iTunes and physical pre-orders.

Hear "It's Highlife Time" and see the full tracklist below.

Fela Kuti, Koola Lobitos (1968)

Highlife-Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969) Tracklist

Disc 1: Singles Collection

1. Bonfo

2. Fere

3. Onifere No. 2

4. Oyejo

5. Oloruka

6. Awo

7. Great Kids

8. Amaechi's Blues

9. Yese

10. Egbin

11. Orise

12. Eke

13. V.C. 7

14. I Know Your Feeling

Disc 2: 1st Album

1. Signature Tune

2. It's Highlife Time

3. Lagos Baby

4. Omuti

5. Ololufe

6. Araba's Delight

7. Wa Dele

8. Lai Se

9. Mi O Mo

10. Obinrin Le

11. Omo Ejo

Disc 3: Afro Beat Live and others

1. Everyday I Got My Blues (Live)

2. Moti Gbrokan (Live)

3. Waka Waka (Live)

4. Ako (Live)

5. Ororuka (Live)

6. Lai Se (Live)

7. Onidodo

8. Ajo

10. Abiara

11. Se E Tun De

12. Waka Waka

13. My Baby Don Love Me

14. Home Cooking

**Correction, March 8 4:50pm EST: This article mistakenly stated that there would be vinyl copies of the release available. Physical copies of the release are only available as CDs.

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Here's What You Need To Know About The Political Unrest In Sudan

Thousands have been protesting the Sudanese government over the weekend, supporting the military's plans for a coup.

Sudan's transitional government is in turmoil as thousands of citizens conducted a sit-in protest against them, over the weekend. A group of Sudanese citizens have called on the military to disestablish the nation's current government, as the country struggles with the greatest crisis they've seen since the end of former dictator Omar al-Bashir's controversial ruling, two years ago. The weekend's pro-military protests come as anti-military protestors took to the streets earlier this month to fight for civilian-ruled laws.

Military-aligned demonstrators assembled outside of the famously off-limits entrance of the Presidential Palace located in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum on Monday. Gatherers set up tents, blocking off access to two main intersections, cutting off access to the capital for those inside. Police attempted to wave off crowds with teargas, with Khartoum state officials saying they had, "repelled an attempted assault on the seat of government," in a statement issued Monday.

The assembly was called for by a coalition of rebel groups and political parties that support Sudan's military, accusing the civilian political parties of mismanagement and monopolizing power under their ruling. Demonstrations began on Saturday, but Sunday's gathering saw a lower attendance. According to Reuters, by Monday afternoon, thousands, between 2,000 - 3,000, had returned to voice their concerns. 52-year-old tribal elder Tahar Fadl al-Mawla spoke at the helm of the sit-in outside of the Presidential palace saying, "The civilian government has failed. We want a government of soldiers to protect the transition." Alongside a 65-year-old Ahman Jumaa who claimed to have traveled more than 900 kilometers (570 miles) from Southern region Nyala to show his support.

Protesters are demanding the appointment of a new cabinet that is "more representative of the people who participated in the December 2019 revolution that eventually led to the ousting of former president Omar al-Bashir", Al Jazeera reported from Sudan. Protesters headed towards the Presidential Palace, where an emergency cabinet meeting was being held when they were met by police forces.

Pro-civilian political parties have plans for their own demonstration on Thursday, the anniversary of the 1964 revolution that overthrew Sudan's first military regime under Ibrahim Abboud and brought in a period of democracy that the country still struggles to uphold.


Sudanese Twitter users shared their thoughts online, with many drawing similarities between the current unrest and other political crises the nation has faced.


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