A Metafilter user going by the wonderful handle “flapjax at midnite” has alerted the world to the existence of a Bandcamp page full of complete Fela Kuti LPs. 48 of them, in fact, which I don’t believe is even his complete discography.
If you’re unfamiliar, good lord take this opportunity! Fela (1938-1997) was an inestimably important African artist who began making music in the late ‘50s, and in the ‘60s pioneered a compelling fusion of psych-rock, funk, jazz, and traditional Nigerian music that he dubbed “Afrobeat.” His music dealt with themes of social justice, which, as he was a Pan-African and a Socialist, got him in major and repeated deep shit in the repressive milieu of Nigeria. The mid ’70s album Zombie, for example, was a blistering attack on the Nigerian military, whose response to the insult included fatally defenestrating his mother in a brutal raid on the Lagos commune in which he, his family, and his band lived. The 1989 release Beasts of No Nation—the recording that served as my introduction to his work—was a lengthy and stunning piece he wrote after being freed from a stint in prison on a politically motivated and trumped up currency smuggling charge.
Now, as heroic as his political struggles were, the man was not unproblematic. It’d be plain wrong to lionize him for his musical innovations and political engagement while leaving out that he was a polygamist who could be disturbingly misogynistic.
There are plenty of good entry points into Fela’s work, but among my favorites is the absolutely KILLER Live With Ginger Baker. The Cream drummer’s African sojurn is a story unto itself, and had no small impact on the development of that continent’s rock music in the ’70s.
Lastly, here’s some great footage from Catalonian television in the ‘80s, mixing interview material with a live concert, a combination which imparts a good sense of the man and his work.