Fela Kuti was one of the greatest voices Africa has ever produced, both musically and politically. He used his music as a tool to challenge bad governance and make political statements, asides being a great source of entertainment. “Zombie” released by the legendary Fela Kuti is one of such songs.
Zombie was released in 1976 and was a protest anthem targeted at the military who ruled Nigeria at the time. The hit song is coming back as a Limited Edition 8-track re-release. Three companies have come together to make this happen. Kalakuta Sunrise, Knitting Factory Records, and Partisan Records are reproducing 300 copies of Zombie and Mr. Follow Follow to be released on December 7. You can however pre-order yours now.
In this Fela classic, he compared the Nigerian military to zombies who just take orders and carry them out without any consideration. The song attracted a stern reaction from the government at the time. This led to the merciless beating of the icon, the burning down of the Kalakuta Republic and the murder of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Fela’s mother.
The 8-track release of Zombie and Mr. Follow Follow can be ordered by clicking the link, Purchase Fela Kuti’s Zombie/Mr Follow Follow on 8-Track.
Mabinuori Kayode Idowu summarized both songs in a few lines, read the below.
Zombie: “Fela in his life time was never ‘a good bed-fellow’ of the military institution. As a political activist, he believed the army should operate under the mandate of a civil government. If national interest compels the armed forces to intervene in government, the army is obliged to hand over power to a new civil government elected by the people and enjoying their mandate. To do otherwise is to usurp power particularly since a soldier’s duty is not to seek a political mandate. For emphasis in the song, he narrates the military in motion comparing their orientation to the Zombie, without minds of their own. Fela paid a big price for this bold condemnation of the military institution. One thousand members of the Nigerian army attacked and burnt down his house after the release of the record. The tribunal set up to investigate the cause of the attack as a result of the public out-cry against the army, heard, as part of the evidence presented, an example of the Zombie album cover with the military uniform and boots displayed boldly. The army justification of the attack was that Fela treated the military institution with levity.”
Mr. Follow Follow: “Mr. Follow Follow is about those who allow themselves to be led blindly by others. Since nobody can live in isolation, Fela sings about those who follow with their eyes wide open and those who follow with their eyes closed. Saying if you have to follow, it is better to follow with your eyes and ears open. For if you follow blindly, you will always remain in the dark: ‘…if you dey follow them book! Na inside cupboard you go quench!…cockroach dey! Rat dey!…na inside darkness you go dey! If you have to follow them books, you have to read with some sense, see with your eyes and hear with your ears.”