Kuti, Fela & Afrika 70: Zombie (Vinyl LP)

Kuti, Fela & Afrika 70: Zombie (Vinyl LP)

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The most inflammatory album Fela had released to date (which is saying something), Zombie triggered the power structure’s most vicious reprisal. The regime had been infuriated by Fela’s exposés of army and police violence on 1974’s Alagbon Close, 1975’s Kalakuta Show and 1976’s Ikoyi Blindness, but its anger was as nothing compared to that stoked by Zombie. In the lyric, Fela ridicules the men in uniform. "Attention! Quick march! Slow march! Salute!" he sings, "Fall in! Fall out! Fall down! Go and kill!" Each phrase is followed by the women singers’ taunt, "Zombie!" Fela continues: “No brains, no job, no sense joro jara jo; tell am to go kill joro jara jo; tell am to go quench joro jara jo.” On February 18 1977, the army would take their revenge: 1000 soldiers surrounded Kalakuta Republic, battered their way in and burnt it to the ground, beating any occupant they could catch, including Fela – and his 77 year old mother, who was thrown out of a second floor window, an outrage which caused her death the following year. (See the essay Music Written In Blood elsewhere on this site). Originally released by Coconut.

Zombie: Fela in his life time was never ‘a good bed-fellow’ of the military institution. As a political activist, he believed the army should operate under the mandate of a civil government. If national interest compels the armed forces to intervene in government, the army is obliged to hand over power to a new civil government elected by the people and enjoying their mandate. To do otherwise is to usurp power particularly since a soldier’s duty is not to seek a political mandate. For emphasis in the song, he narrates the military in motion comparing their orientation to the Zombie, without minds of their own. Fela paid a big price for this bold condemnation of the military institution. One thousand members of the Nigerian army attacked and burnt down his house after the release of the record. The tribunal set up to investigate the cause of the attack as a result of the public out-cry against the army, heard, as part of the evidence presented, an example of the Zombie album cover with the military uniform and boots displayed boldly. The army justification of the attack was that Fela treated the military institution with levity.

Mister Follow Follow: Mr. Follow Follow is about those who allow themselves to be led blindly by others. Since nobody can live in isolation, Fela sings about those who follow with their eyes wide open and those who follow with their eyes closed. Saying if you have to follow, it is better to follow with your eyes and ears open. For if you follow blindly, you will always remain in the dark: ‘…if you dey follow them book! Na inside cupboard you go quench!…cockroach dey! Rat dey!…na inside darkness you go dey! If you have to follow them books, you have to read with some sense, see with your eyes and hear with your ears’, he concludes.

2014 reissue. Includes an insert with Fela's photo and notes.

  1. Zombie
  2. Mr Follow Follow

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