News

Happy Presidents' Day From Fela Kuti

Today we celebrate Fela Kuti, the original black president.


Today the United States honors George Washington's birthday, as well as the long patriarchal line of other presidents with "Presidents' Day." We're more than happy to take this moment to raise awareness of the greatness that is Fela Kuti - the original black president. As a revolutionary of his time, Fela Kuti became known as The Black President and a true representative of the people. Listen to "Everything Scatter," the lastest release from the forthcoming compilation The Best of the Black President 2, out on Knitting Factory Records/Kalakuta Sunrise March 4. Also be sure to catch the FELA! musical on its US tour, which just kicked off in DC. BUY TICKETS HERE.

TOUR DATES

1/31 – 2/10: Sidney Harmon Hall – Washington, DC

2/12 – 2/17: Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts – Detroit, MI

2/19 – 2/23: Arie Crown Theater – Chicago, IL

2/25 – 2/26: Belk Theater at Blumental Performing Arts Center – Charlotte, NC

2/28 – 3/3: The Fox Theater – Atlanta, GA

3/8 – 3/9: Proctors Theater – Schenectady, NY

3/15 – 3/17: TBA – Memphis, TN

3/19 – 3/24: Adrienne Arsht Center – Miami, FL

4/2 – 4/4: Playhouse Square Palace Theater – Cleveland, OH

4/12 – 4/13: UA Centennial Hall – Tucson, AZ

4/23 – 4/24: ASU Gammage Memorial Auditorium – Tempe, AZ

4/25 – 5/5: Ahmanson Theater at the Music Center – Los Angeles, CA

5/7 – 5/17: Winspear Opera House – Dallas, TX

5/28 – 6/2: Paramount Theater – Seattle, WA

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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