February 10, 2015
Originally posted on FACT.
The good folk at Soundway Records, the label responsible for countless inspired reissues from Africa and Latin America, have unearthed the very first recordings by Fela Kuti.
‘Fela’s Special’ was recorded for the Melodisc label in London in 1960, long before the Nigerian musician had cemented his status as the king of Afrobeat. The track appears on a new Soundway compilation, Highlife on the Move: Selected Nigerian and Ghanaian Recordings from London and Lagos – 1954-66, and had been thought lost until archivists rediscovered it recently.
“Even though [the recordings] had been discographically tracked and people interested in Fela’s musical life knew of them, they kept hiding for more than 50 years,” explains highlife researcher Markus Coester in the sleevenotes to the compilation. “Before I came across them, I was even in doubt whether they had been released at all. These are amazing first recordings, however.”
The album is available as double CD and triple 180g gatefold vinyl with a bonus 7″, which features ‘Fela’s Special’ and another track from his first recording session.
The Guardian has the first stream of the track – head there to listen.
Last year Brian Eno curated a huge vinyl box set of Fela Kuti’s catalogue, but if you’re looking to get up to speed with his vast discography there’s no better place to start than the 48 albums available on Bandcamp.
Check out our rundown of the 10 rarest Fela Kuti records here.