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Artist: Fela Kuti
Even before his death in 1997, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was the stuff of legend as the creator of Afro-beat, and as a fierce political activist, outlaw, and outspoken voice for the oppressed not only in his native Nigeria, but throughout Africa. Though harassed, beaten, tortured, and imprisoned by his own country's oppressive military dictatorship, he could not be broken. Like Bob Marley's, Kuti's name has been synonymous with liberation. Since his passing he has even become the subject of a Broadway musical that bears his name and tours internationally. He is a bona fide folk hero. That said, it's his music that not only survives his legend, but is the largest part of what perpetuates it. In its salacious, infectious, polyrhythmic grooves, the anger, politics, and sexuality shake, quake, and roar from his first recordings to his last. His catalog has been issued in several incarnations at various times since his death. This particular box set from Wrasse contains all 26 albums, which were previously released by the label in three separate compilation groupings. Each disc is housed in its own mini-LP sleeve, bearing original cover art, and the set contains four booklets -- one for each grouping of albums and a brief biography in a booklet of its own. What's confusing, at least initially, is that the back of the box numbers the albums one through 26, while each booklet numbers them starting at one. In other words, discs ten and 19 both bear the number one and start again with their groupings. They correspond to the way the label initially released these albums. The box also contains a DVD entitled A Slice of Fela. It is a compilation narrated by Sahr Ngaujah that contains excerpts from various documentaries and live concerts. There are interviews with Kuti's biographer Carlos Moore and Fela the musical's co-writer and choreographer, Bill T. Jones. Obviously, this collection is for the hardcore Kuti fan who doesn't already have everything. That said, given its exceptionally reasonable price tag (a true bargain), it may appeal to others as well. Either way, it is a singular document, one that testifies to Kuti's authentic role as one of the great musical innovators of the 20th century.
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