London Scene / Live! With Ginger Baker (Partisan)
London Scene/Live! With Ginger Baker is a brace of reissues from the catalogue of the great Nigerian musician and political activist, Fela Kuti, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first recordings. Both of these records are from 1971, and showcase his distinctive Afrobeat style, blending traditional Nigerian styles with American influences from R&B, funk, and modern jazz. Tracks are built around an insistent rhythm section playing intricate, hypnotic grooves for long sections, over which Kuti alternates between vocal chants and saxophone breaks.
First up is London Scene, a distillation of the musical approach he had developed upon returning to Nigeria after his studies in England. Featuring his Africa 70 band recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios, this recording is an essential part of the story of Kuti’s rise to superstardom outside of Nigeria.
Also re-released is the classic Live! With Ginger Baker – again capturing a performance at Abbey Road, with the erstwhile Cream drummer playing alongside Kuti’s longtime percussionist Tony Allen. Having two world-class drummers playing together creates a dense polyrhythmic backdrop for Kuti’s vocals. The original recording featured four tracks, with only one clocking in at under 12 minutes, and despite that length, the compulsive momentum of the band carries the listener along. This reissue also features a 16-minute drum duet between Baker and Allen recorded at the Berlin Jazz Festival.
words DAVID GRIFFITHS