Sunday, November 4, 2012

Collection Essentials #2: Zombie

Fela Kuti

In the same shared student lodging in Minneapolis that I discovered Old and in the Way my mind was blown by another essential disc. 

Ned Wood was a fellow fast order cook at Valli Pizza, the 24-hr greasy spoon where I worked. He was a tall guy with bent but wide shoulders. Gentle as a child but as quick witted as monkey in the jungle, Ned had an amazing collection of music.  Back in 1978 he estimated it to hold about 1000 LPs. Of course, he had been lucky enough to work at Positively 4th Street, a local disc-orium, and so had exploited a staff discount to good effect.

Ned was one of those people who, at various stages of life, took unwitting responsibility for my musical education.  Thanks to him I discovered Bob Marley as well as Eddie and the Hot Rods. The Flaming Groovies were another favourite of his, not to mention Elvis Costello and The The.

One early morning as were cleaning up the kitchen he said he’d bring me in some Fela the next shift.  I shrugged. It was late. I smelled like pizza dough. I wanted to get some sleep.   True to his word, the next shift we shared together he slipped a C-90 into my palm and said, “I think you’ll like this.”

Now, at that point I had not heard a single note of African music. So I didn’t rush right out and listen to it, but at some point in the next weeks or months I pushed the play button on my Teac deck.

Old and in the Way grew on me steadily over repeated listenings. Fela’s Zombie simply cocked a revolver and blew my head off in less than a minute.  From the hypnotic guitar riff that opened the album and led immediately to Fela’s fierce staccato sax, joined quickly by a chorus of jeering trumpets, I can honestly say I had NEVER even imagined music such as this. But now that I heard it, it seemed to strike some deep inner chord that embraced the sound as a birthright.  This was not a record that grew on you.  It was a record that grabbed you by the collar and slapped you in the face to wake you up.

Zombie-o, zombie (Zombie-o, zombie)Zombie-o, zombie (Zombie-o, zombie)

Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go (Zombie)

Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop (Zombie)

Zombie no go turn, unless you tell am to turn (Zombie)

Zombie no go think, unless you tell am to think (Zombie)

Tell am to go straight
 A joro, jara, joro

No break, no job, no sense

A joro, jara, joro

Tell am to go kill

A joro, jara, joro

No break, no job, no sense

A joro, jara, joro

Tell am to go quench

A joro, jara, joro

No break, no job, no sense

A joro, jara, joro

Go and kill! (Joro, jaro, joro)

Go and die! (Joro, jaro, joro)

Go and quench! (Joro, jaro, joro)

Put am for reverse! (Joro, jaro, joro)

Joro, jara, joro, zombie wey na one way

Joro, jara, joro, zombie wey na one way
oro, jara, joro, zombie wey na one way

Joro, jara, joro

Attention! (Zombie)

Quick march!

Slow march! (Zombie)

Left turn!
Right turn! (Zombie)

About turn!
Double up! (Zombie)

Open your hat! (Zombie)

Stand at ease!
Fall in! (Zombie)

Fall out!
Fall down! (Zombie)

Get ready!

Zombie was Fela’s breakthrough album in the USA though it was his 27th! Taking it to the military that ran Nigeria, the song was a huge hit back home as well, with people marching past like dead men and chanting “Zombie” whenever they sighted a soldier.

The military no longer rule Nigeria but this is an article from today’s newspaper.

Fear is gripping Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri with many men fleeing after the alleged execution style killings of around 40 young men, mostly teenagers, who residents say were rounded up and shot.

"All male residents have left the neighbourhood ... Those that remain are women, children and elderly men," said resident Fatima Mustapha.

The city is the stronghold of an insurgency by Boko Haram Islamists, blamed for the death of hundreds of people in northern and central Nigeria since 2009.

"The neighbourhood has been under siege since yesterday (Friday) with soldiers taking over the entire area," said Mustapha, a resident of the Gwange area where a retired army general, Mohammed Shuwa, was shot dead on Friday.

She said the men had fled fearing a heavy handed military response to the murder of the general who was being buried on Saturday.

A military source on Friday declined to comment on Thursday's killings saying only that if such shootings had taken place, they would have been "unjustified".

The killings came on the same day that Amnesty International accused Nigerian security forces of massive rights violations, including summary executions, in its campaign to crush the Islamists.

Residents said troops conducting raids in areas of Maiduguri on Thursday separated males in their teens and twenties from older men and shot them.

In the Kalari neighbourhood they told the young men "to lie face down on the ground," then asked the rest to look away, one resident said.

"All we heard were gunshots. They shot them on the spot," said the elderly religious leader, who did not want to be named, adding that the troops did the same in three other neighbourhoods.

Most Maiduguri residents were on Saturday shut up at home.
Residents spoke of a heavy military presence in many areas of the city.

Boko Haram's insurgency in northern and central Nigeria and the state's military response are believed to have left more than 2800 people dead since 2009.

The music, as you can see remains as relevant today as when it was originally released.  I have never been without this record in my collection since 1978 and listen to it frequently.

     Track Listing:
01.    Zombie
02.    Mr. Follow, Follow

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