“Johnny Just Drop,” in Nigeria, is a person who visits and/or studies in Europe, drops back into Nigeria, and now promotes European values at the expense of Nigerian values. This reminds me of Fela’s other composition, “Gentleman,” in which he describes a Nigerian who promotes European values to an absurd degree, dressing in a three-piece wool suit and hat in the tropical heat to the point where he smells like piss and faints away. Fela’s lyrics are always a sly take on the absurdities and indignities of post-colonial/neo-colonial life in Africa.
With commentary from Chris May, an Afrobeat historian, this is an interesting YouTube version of this tune. Kalakuta was the name Fela gave to his home compound, claiming to be a republic separate from Nigeria. As you can imagine, this caused problems with the Nigerian authorities, but it was a brave stance nonetheless.
This is the tune that Fela identified as his first truly African composition. While that might be debatable – highlife is African, for sure – it really does represent a change to the Afrobeat style that Fela stuck to for the remainder of his career. This tune has no lyrics, but the same modal structure and bottom-heavy horn section that characterizes his music are definitely in play here. A-fro-BEAT!!
West African calypso music from the 1950s! One of the things I find most fascinating about African diasporic music is that it travels so broadly in multiple directions. Calypso, funk, soul, Afro-Cuban, all exist in African popular music from the magic of the traveling LP – LPs moved about the globe on ships, traded by sailors and imported by record shops. The only unfortunate dynamic is that African popular music was not as widely recorded and distributed as music from Europe and the Americas, but I love hearing what African musicians do with the foreign music they listened to.
This is a great groove with Fela’s sly humor poking fun at the pompously educated intellectual class in Nigeria. Mr. Grammarticalogylisationalism uses his education as a cynical weapon against so-called ordinary people.
“Talking oyinbo” means to speak like a European – to put on the false pretenses of an educated “gentleman.” From Fela’s perspective, Africans should act like Africans: educated in their own way and not needing to copy Europeans in order to seem educated.
“My brother make you no follow book-oo,
look now man use your sense”
“Mr. Follow Follow” is, from my perspective, one of the more directly poetic tunes Fela composed. It’s political in an interpersonal sense, appealing directly to the listener to use one’s brain and think for oneself.
“Some they follow follow, they close them eye,
Some they follow follow, they close them ear,
Some they follow follow, they close them mouth,
Some they follow follow, they close them sense”
“I no go gee-ree, make my brother homeless, make am no talk”
Very sly trumpet solo. So far behind the beat it’s practically falling over. I can’t remember if this is one of the tunes with Lester Bowie, but the trumpet solo really hits me here.
This is way cool. This dude has transcribed a bunch of Fela’s tunes and then run down his transcriptions in a series of screencasts. I could easily do the same with my transcription of “Mr. Follow Follow,” and I have been meaning to transcribe more of Fela’s and Sun Ra’s music. More work ahead of me, I suppose.
And just in case this transcription isn’t enough, here’s Fela playing the tune.
Zombie o zombie Zombie o zombie Zombie o zombie Zombie o zombie
I like am so
I know what to wear
But my friend don’t know
Him put him sock
Him put him shoe
Him put him pant
Him put him singlet
Him put him trouser
Him put him shirt
Him put him tie
Him put him coat
Him come cover all with him hat
Him be gentleman
Him go sweat all over
Him go faint right down
Him go smell like shit
Him go piss for body
Him no go know
Me I no be gentleman like that
(chorus) I no be gentleman at all o
I be Africa man
(chorus) I no be gentleman at all o