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Fathers of the Funk!

 article about African music
2004-03-16 00:39:16
There is a certain ether between African- American and original African
sensibilities. And because one could easily feel it in the soul, music
becomes the expressive platform. Moreso nothing has really been lost
ever since African-Americans finally got delivered by the sacrificing
of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. These were felled in the
sixties, when the likes of James Brown, The godfather of Soul and Fela
Anikulapokuti, Nigeria's King of Afro-Beat founded their pervasive
music idioms.

African music especially when perceived
consciously, carries a certain inner feel with an outward expression.
This feel, which is not uncommon to the human race, becomes more
meaningful to the African, because of the vicissitudes of survival in a
harsh world. This is usualand common to the Irish, but to the Arabs it
may be subjected to the dicta of Islam. Yet before Negroid Africans
were enslaved on American plantations, some earthy originality was
perceived by the first White man that landed on the continent. That is
the origin of the brotherhood of the African rhythm, beat and harmony
between Fela and James, Fathers of the Funk!

So there is
certainly that ether, which remains pervasive; therefore, on reading a
recent story on James Brown, there was not missing the contemporariness
of the two. Born into a well to do family, Fela was privileged to be
exposed to the racial injustice of the sixties in America. But James
Brown was part and parcel of the demeaning crust of the American
excitement. This, Fela would later find uncomforting through
indoctrination from the peers of James. There remains the soul
connexion, undoubtedly. A privileged African witnessing the
incapacitation of his kinsman - a soul brother. That is why Fela
abandoned all that stuff about classical music, which he studied in the
Royal College of Arts in the United Kingdom.

Fela needed to
come home to Nigeria, because he wanted to be home, lest he miss the
sixties evolution of his country. It might have been a replication of
the American society, where the ruling class were emulating the
Whiteman, and, of course, seeking riches to support lifestyles through
corruption. And it was not as if Fela's radicalism, the contending
opposite, was born solely out of his African-American brother's
prejudice, but being the son of the first woman to have driven a car in
Nigeria, he was born perhaps with that derring-do. So that guy was
naturally equipped with the pains of black and Americans and that of
his mother, who finally got thrown down from a one-story building,
dying afterwards because of the impact.

But you must
differentiate James and Fela somehow. After all, the usurpers of human
rights on both sides of the Atlantic were different. And James fought
racial discrimination with a certain demure, while Fela came out to
confront military regimes, who locked him up, but knew the truth in his
songs. While James felt like a sex machine, Fela married 27 wives and
operated the machine. The former slid and glided though the sixties and
seventies, while Fela simply pranced like a leopard in his tight
fitting costume. James thinks that his hair and teeth are the things
that make the soul, but Fela would dance with only his pants, not his
trousers. Both were simply connected by one thing: soul brotherhood.

But the funk remains their haunting specter! It is not the kind you
could experience in African superstition, but the fear of the insecure
inner personalities. James might be explicatively showing that, by
being violent with women, but Fela was not ashamed to brandish his
penis and demonstrate with his women on stage. As a modern person you
might think that it all boils down to the legendary black man sexual
prowess, but show me a dog and I will show you that any dissatisfied
human simply hits back with his nature-sex! Sex and music are not an
African originality, but have some African implication; especially when
it lives under injustice.

In the long run as the radio waves of
the seventies and eighties oozed the reality of James and Fela's Soul
and Afro-Beat respectively, America and Nigeria were also evolving in
their own ways. Nigeria among other African countries was cropping an
exclusive society, and the U.S.A., if I am not wrong, was promoting
inclusiveness. That is because James even found soul brothers in the
racist whites too. For Fela, he found people who simply enjoyed his
music in the drunken stupor of crude oil boom, never minding the
message that was real. That which was we all had the funk and needed to
groove out of the pervading social injustice by the re-curing
corruption! So it did turn out that few Nigerians were ready to face
danger in the assassins' bullets.

So while James Brown had
become representative of the African-American nation in the USA, Fela
Anikulapokuti was not taken seriously. Therefore by the time Fela got
tired of speaking to the blind and deaf, Abacha the maximum leader of
Nigeria's nineties, only needed to be swept away by the grand design of
the Most High. "God bless ya!"

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