Words by Dan Schaffel
Many hands make the world go ’round. Different races and cultures, places and backgrounds allow for people from anywhere to bring different ideas and abilities into a collaborative effort. With that in mind, Red Hot + Fela succeeded on its mission to create an original album of works paying tribute to the late Afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti. Various artists ranging from rock to hip-hop to the acid jazz scene infused traditional African beats, rhythms, and chants into 13 skillfully composed songs.
“Buy Africa” leads the album off on a brass-ridden, guitar and organ laden funk-fest, backed by L’Orchestre de la Katuba. It breaks in the album with a small sample of the vocal representation of the African landscape, carrying that element into the second track, “Lady”. Featuring drumkit extraordinaire ?uestlove, he lays down beats for Afro-language lyrics AND a hip-hop verse that interweaves modern black music with their ancestors’ souls unconditionally.
Where the album takes its unexpected, uptempo turn is on the songs “Yellow Fever” and “No Buredi”. Bringing in the electronica influence on the down beat pulsates the multiple layers of culture orchestrated throughout the record. Use of new technology and sampling do not become prominent again until the end on “Hilifetime”, “Zombie”, and “Go Slow”.
Standing out amongst the rest is My Morning Jacket’s uniquely assisted, intricately spacious 14-minute “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. While some could see it as a 21st century Pink Floyd-esque interstellar jam, each element was carefully placed in order to build and release tension throughout. Vocals only come into play in the second half with help from Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes) and Merrill Garbus (tUne-yArds), continuing the theme of prevalent backups of melodic African chants.
Collaborative efforts such as this are so very rare these days. It’s because endless opportunities present themselves to artists in the industry and while we like to think of some as sleepless workaholics, they are only human. Scheduling various artists from all over the world to come together to help contribute to one masterwork production is difficult in the least, yet this larger than life effort will inspire musicians and singers from the farthest corners of the earth to find the time to unite with one another and revisit timeless classics as we’ve received here.
‘Red Hot + FELA’
Knitting Factory Records
© October 8th, 2013
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