Huck pays tribute to an African soul rebel and offers you the chance to win a copy of Alex Gibney’s new Fela Kuti documentary.

Huck pays tribute to an African soul rebel and offers you the chance to win a copy of Alex Gibney’s new Fela Kuti documentary.

This week sees the UK release of Finding Fela – the documentary directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney on the life and the music of Nigerian musician and revolutionary Fela Anikulapo Kuti. If ever there was a proponent of radical culture it was Kuti – and the film attempts to evoke exactly how and why this political shaman, who was a thorn in the side of the corrupt post-colonial Nigerian regime, remains as relevant today as ever.

If you know nothing about Fela Kuti – start by simply listening to the music – preferably via a big fat-grooved slab of vinyl and an old fashioned amp and big speakers. I dare you not to dig the driving landscape of chant and evocation that is ‘Upside Down’.

Bang your head to the ‘Let’s Start’ live set where Cream sticksman Ginger Baker lays down the backdrop to a seemingly endless sheet of afrobeat arpeggios.

Notice the raw depth of the beats – and the way that, as in the music of James Brown (who was influenced by and went on to influence Fela), every element from the vocal to the horns and strings is operating on a sublime, rhythmic level.

Fela was able to use the sheer ferocity of his music as a weapon against the rule of the military junta that ruled Nigeria throughout the 1970s and 1980s – the mass ensembles the Kuti family put together at his Lagos compound proving more powerful than any simple politician’s rhetoric.

Layers of rhythm in Fela’s largely improvised compositions provided a backdrop for intensely accusatory, impossible to ignore calls and responses that demanded the forging of a truly independent, truly democratic Nigerian reality. And he did it all mostly in his underpants, tugging on a huge reefer. Little wonder he pissed the establishment off.

It’s this free-flowing, deeply visceral intensity that made Fela Kuti’s sound so irresistible – and why a generation of disenfranchised Africans and anyone who felt the the power of music flocked metaphorically to Fela’s side. Fela Kuti became the most dangerous man in Africa, simply by being himself, without compromise. The continent could do with more of the same.

Finding Fela is out on DVD in the UK on Monday December 8.

To enter our competition to win a copy, just tweet what Fela Kuti means to you or your favourite Fela quote, picture or track  to @HuckMagazine before Wednesday December 10.