Fela Kuti & The Afrika 70 - Zombie LP
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The fury stirred up among the Nigerian police and military by Fela’s confrontational Alagbon Close (1974) and Kalakuta Show (1976), and the beatings and harassments Fela and Africa 70 suffered as a consequence, were as nothing compared to the reprisals following 1976’s Zombie. Within months of its release, a brutal army attack left Fela’s Kalakuta Republic compound burnt to the ground and many of its residents, including Fela, assaulted and seriously injured. On the title track, over an urgent, quick-march accompaniment from Afrika 70, Fela and the backup singers ridicule the mindset of men in uniform. “Attention! Quick march! Slow march! Salute!” sings Fela, “Fall in! Fall out! Fall down! Go and kill! Go and die! Go and quench!” Each phrase is followed by the women singers’ taunting response, “Zombie!” Fela continues: “No brains, no job, no sense joro jara jo; tell am to go kill joro jara jo; tell am to go quench joro jara jo (meaning, “no brains, no job, no sense left right left; tell him to go kill left right left; tell him to go die left right left.”) The army’s response was terrible... On 18 February, 1977, around 1,000 soldiers, most of them armed, swooped on Kalakuta. They cordoned off the surrounding area, broke down the wire fence around the community’s buildings, and battered their way into the central structure. Occupants were stripped and barbarously abused: particularly unfortunate men had their testicles beaten with rifle butts; particularly unfortunate women were raped (another had her nipples crushed between stones). Fela was badly beaten, sustaining a fractured skull and several broken bones. His mother, then aged 77, was thrown out of a window, fracturing a leg and suffering deep trauma. The army then set fire to the compound and prevented the fire brigade reaching the area. The blaze gutted the premises, destroying six Afrika 70 vehicles, all Fela’s master tapes and band equipment, a four-track recording studio, all the residents’ belongings and, for good measure, the free medical clinic run by Fela’s brother, Dr Beko Ransome Kuti (who was also severely beaten in the attack). The first journalists to arrive on the scene were assaulted by soldiers. Inquisitive passers-by were similarly set upon. The army didn’t want any witnesses.