ahh, good old context. i’d listened to this song five or so times, and was curious what era/continent this was from, and could only smile and shake my head after a google search — the shaolin afronauts are an afrobeat band (that much, i already knew), a contemporary one, from adelaide, australia. sup globalization. if it wasn’t already common knowledge, fela’s sound was clearly heard all around the world, and continues to shape the global landscape of music more than a decade after his death, as his sons and various tribute groups perform in a way that preserves his spirit and legacy.
i think it’s a fascinating intellectual debate about the conceptual legitimacy of instrumental afrobeat music, in terms of its relationship with its origins. there’s certainly an enormous amount of discourse relating to fela’s socially conscious lyrics, elevating his art to another plane of existence, in the same way one can hardly picture bob marley and the wailers breaking through as international heroes with their tremendously inspiring instrumental reggae jams. the beats are combined with the lyrics to get people dancing to music that they are ideologically moved by, singing songs that ultimately serve as slogans and mantras of liberation from all sorts of forms of oppression. this here is party music….but weren’t fela and bob’s music the same? people uniting together to dance and grow into a collective frenzy, advancing their consciousness in a matter befitting cultural growth once the music’s done? the two stances that governments have the hardest times suppressing are non-violence and humor, and when artists create a juxtaposition involving satirically critical lyrics, brilliantly potent messages set atop blissfully moving instrumental backdrops, the sentiments of the populace can be altered inextricably and the ruling class often won’t have a course of action to stop it (other than getting real grimy with covert assassinations and whatnot, defaming people through journalistic lies, and doing things like throwing fela’s mother out a window during a gov’t raid on his compound).
so with in mind, this music does serve as an extension of that same sentiment of defiance, that mentality that the people will dance wholeheartedly in times of struggle and sing barely-veiled songs of protest when moved to do so, even though it appears to be an innocent six-minute instrumental jam, an intercontinental tribute inspired by the music of west africa a generation ago. context, you sly, sly dog you.