The name Fela Kuti is said with some reverence in and outside of Nigeria. And it is for good reason too: he is a symbol of revolt against social oppression, mostly when it is done by the ruling class. It was to this effect he released “Zombie” in 1976, an album criticizing the then military government and the soldiers at their call, carrying out their wishes without question. The military government will send a thousand soldiers a year after the release to ransack Kalakuta Republic, the communal home that Fela Kuti had established. Fela was beaten to near-death, his mother, the iconic Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was thrown through a window, causing her death, and Kalakuta Republic was burnt to the ground. The irony of this act–committed by a thousand soldiers on the orders of the military government–is not lost on us.
42 years later, Knitting Factory Records, Kalakuta Sunrise and Partisan Records will be re-releasing “Zombie” as part of an 8-track cartridge on December 7. It will be a limited edition with only 300 copies available for order world-wide. “Zombie” has been called “the most popular and impacting record” of Fela Kuti & Africa 70.
Mabinuori Kayode Idowu, in a statement accompanying the re-release, writes of ‘Zombie:’
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.
This is an important and historic move in reinforcing the legacy of Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s Afrobeat legend and social activist. It is available for pre-order here.