Audio

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.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Adekunle Gold Is Living His Best Life

We speak to the Nigerian star about how marriage and fatherhood have led him to find both newfound happiness and newfound freedom as an artist.