The Roots’ drummer Questlove discusses his admiration of the late Nigerian musician Fela Kuti in an interview with Martin Johnson. Besides producing for the Legendary Roots Crew and other prominent artists like Jay-Z and Common, Questlove has been juggling his gig as the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. More recently, he’s been involved in an effort to celebrate Nigerian singer Fela Kuti’s revered catalogue.
The drummer will be the first high profile artist to curate a special edition set of records due to be reissued by the Knitting Factory. He told Johnson:
I think it was gonna happen eventually. I’ve been associated with Fela! [the Broadway musical] almost from the start. I brought Shawn [Jay-Z] Carter to it. And I was involved in the last reissue series of Fela’s albums in 2000 when Universal reissued his whole catalog. When Knitting Factory wanted to bring back Fela’s records, they wanted to do it differently.
According to the late singer’s website, the Fela reissue series is a "remaster and reissue [of] all 45 Fela titles in unique digi-packs with the original artwork… issued on vinyl." Questlove has chosen six albums that focus more on his 80’s work with the band Egypt ’80.
Although it’s been over a decade since the legendary Nigerian singer passed away to due complications with AIDS, his work has had a lasting political influence. The messages of his songs opposed the dictatorships and militaristic governments of Nigeria in the 70’s and 80’s. Matthew Everett at Metro Pulse writes that the new series has created "a market for pop obscurities from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Benin."
In addition to the reissue series, the Broadway hit production "Fela!" premiered in November 2009 and successfully closed last month. Jamilah King wrote recently about how producers are in the works of trying to move the project to Lagos, Nigeria. The move, by all accounts, would be monumental.