Seven essential pieces of King Afropet’s Villa Coty, celebrated in an exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris

What better introduction to Nigerian Afrobeat creator Fela Anikulapo Kuti than listening to his tracks? This complex music, whose protest lyrics were real torches, has influenced dozens of artists, from Paul McCartney to Keziah Jones, from David Byrne (Talking Heads) to De La Sol, and its composer is as much respected by Beyoncé as Radiohead’s Tom York. Or a flea from hot red pepper.

Sodi Marciszewer, musical advisor for the exhibition Villa Koti Afrobeat . RebellionFranceinfo Culture, which begins Thursday 20 October 2022 at the Philharmonie de Paris, has selected seven primary titles in the very rich Fela Kuti collection. Artistic Director, Sound Engineer and Mixer, Mr. Marciszewer has worked with “Black Chief” but also with his children Femi and Sion Koti, as well as with IAM, Manu Negra, Rashid Taha and The Chinese Man. His enlightening commentaries on the treasures of Villa are a perfect introduction to the life and work of the King of Afropet.

1Water Don’t Get an Enemy (1975)

Sude Marszouer : This track is very powerful musically and I think that’s one of the reasons why it became an anthem. Water does not become infected with the enemy It is the essence of Afrobeat for a villa. It’s a primary title, and one of the most taken up, including by his two sons Vimmi and Sion, that is regularly claimed by the public. And I believe its success is due to the strength of the catchy brass scum that starts the song. The text is also great because Fella makes it clear that you can’t do anything without water, and you can’t do without it. We need water for washing, cooking, drinking, healing, etc. As we know, Fella has always been persecuted by the Nigerian regime, and a friend told him: “Don’t worry, you are like water, the government should not resist you because water has no enemy. “The inspiration for the song came from there. But as is often the case with Villa, we are in metaphor and symbol, there are several layers of understanding. I had the pleasure of participating in the 2002 recording of the cover of this title by Macy’s. Gray, Femi Coti and D’Angelo from assembly order Red Hot and Riot At Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland studios in New York and it was absolutely magical. It is one of the most beautiful recordings I have collaborated on in my life.

2Gentleman (1973)

Sude Marszouer : a respectful person is a statement. It is a very militant song in which Villa denounces cultural colonialism. He says it feels good to dress as one should be in a hot country, where you don’t have to wear a suit and tie, and finally catches up with Nigerians who pair Western cultures and the lifestyles that go along with them, from food to clothing (hence the cover that appears Editor’s note: Monkey in clothes.) Villa raves that he will never be a gentleman, and that this is not part of his vocabulary. Musically, it’s a very lively piece, and it’s very danceable, with a strong rhythm. It enters the stomach and is difficult to get rid of. I happened to be riding my bike popping in my head and spinning in a loop for a while. It really is the hub of Afrobeat.

3Zombies (1976)

Sude Marszouer : zombies It is a very energetic piece, played out loud by every musician, Villa plays like musicians in a performance, giving a certain sound and almost rock-like energy. Villa also powerfully sings this grumpy, ironic and presumed moniker. It should be known that in general, when Villa composed a track, he first played it for a while in front of the audience of his Shrine club in Lagos, before recording it. But once he scored, he never played it on stage again. zombiesThe rant in which he openly mocks Nigerian military leaders, compared to zombies for their indiscriminate violence, is an exception. Realizing that this track was likely to cause him problems, he did not play it live prior to the album’s release. In fact, this headline sparked horrific reprisals from the Nigerian Military Council which was in power at the time. In February 1977, it ordered the dismissal of the Kalakuta Republic, the community he founded in Lagos and where he lived with his family and all of his extended entourage. During a rare violent attack, soldiers raped the women, brutalized the men, and set the house on fire. But they also stopped Villa’s 76-year-old mother, who died 14 months later from her injuries. Which brings us to the next piece…

4Coffin of the Head of State (1981)

Sude Marszouer : This album is strong and bitter with very special chords. The music network is really special, sad and exciting. In this piece, (written after the Republic of Calacatta was utterly devastated during the musician’s trip to Europe in 1978 editor’s note), he and his family in 1979 brought an icon of justice trampled on in front of the Nigerian military government seat, a stage meant to recall the role of General Obasanjo At the death of his mother, the feminist activist Fonmilaiu Anicolabo Koti. On the musical front, we are still with Africa 70, the best Fila band, in my opinion. They have a great voice because they know how to make their instruments speak in a very expressive and controlled way and each one has a well-defined role.

Villa is a great composer and conductor who, like Mozart, Beethoven, James Brown or The Prince, composes scores of his musicians. It’s very cool and that’s also why we can say that Phila invented afrobeat because, before him, this musical form did not exist.

5Expensive (1975)

Sude Marszouer : This song tells of another adventure of Villa as the police arrive at his house to arrest him again. He has hashish and in order not to be imprisoned for drug possession, he swallows it all at once. The police, not being deceived, take him anyway and ask him to defecate for evidence and charge him. If I remember correctly, he slowed down long enough, but was thrown into prison, and during the night – you have to know that Villa is a bit like Robin Hood, the people’s spokesman, and so wherever there is always someone to help him – his droppings are secretly collected and taken out. out of prison. Then they give him a drink that cleans his stomach and intestines so that the next day, when he goes to the toilet, his jailers can only see that there is no trace of weed or an illicit product in his excrement. Suddenly, he composed a song with his nonsense rating (laughs). I remember an elephant always holding either a knuckle or a musical instrument in his hand and often even both at the same time. He smoked a lot. But he also took THC in the form of jam, which allowed him to travel with it.

6No Agreement (1979)

Sude Marszouer : What I really like no dealWhich is another statement, which is that we have a self-sufficient motto. Fulla was a man of logos, many of them were born, including the famous “logo”Music is the weapon of the future“(Music is the weapon of the future) And I think he could have successfully worked in advertising agencies. It’s also one of my favorite tracks, but for more musical reasons: It’s trance, and ecstasy is part of Vela’s world. It’s a fundamental dimension of her music and the fact that she loves us in a physical way. What’s interesting is that it’s not just a rhythmic thing: the music is built with very few chords, very few tones and patterns that rotate, giving an ecstatic aspect. If there are more notes, it won’t work.

7CBB (Confusion Fracture Bones) (1990)

Sude Marszouer : It’s a track that I participated in, and recorded at Angel Studios in London with Fella’s other band, Egypt 80, formed after Fella suffered a lot. At that time, he stayed several times in prison, was beaten and deprived of food, and moved to a slightly more mystical dimension. I don’t think he visualizes music quite the same way anymore. Part of the delight is gone, and it’s not in show and in groove happiness, an essential dimension of Africa 70. This piece is very original because it’s a symphony with strings in a minor key. I recommend it to discover another aspect of Villa, totally mystical, but which leads us into a whole new, sour and bitter musical world. There is a musical texture that you have rarely heard anywhere else, including in the Villa repertoire. The writing and the arrangements are very clever: every note played by every instrument is the fruit of an impressive musical maturity. It’s a piece that I listen to like classical music.

Villa Koti Exhibition Afrobeat Rebellion
At the Philharmonie de Paris – Musée de la Musée
From 20 October 2022 to 11 June 2023
221 rue Jean Jaures 75019 Paris


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