Fela Kuti lives on. Since his death in 1997, he's been transformed from musician's musician with a cult-like following to a worldwide musical icon. The last four years have seen the Broadway hit FELA! win Tony Awards and tour the world, Knitting Factory Records reissue the prolific Nigerian firebrand's back catalogue, and now, Red Hot.
Red Hot is an AIDS awareness organization currently partnering with cross-genre collaborators representing rock, hip-hop, Americana, and classical for the release of Fela Kuti compositions, Red Hot + Fela. The release includes classic Fela anthems like "Lady" recorded by tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Angelique Kidjo, and Akua Naru, "Zombie" recorded by Spoek Mathambo, Cerebral Cortex, and Frown, and "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" recorded by My Morning Jacket, Merrill Garbus (from tUnE-yArDs), and Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes) and "Sorrow, Tears & Blood" reworked by the Kronos Quartet along with TV On The Radios' Kyp Malone and Tune Adembimpe.
Stuart Bogie, who contributed to the album's "Sorrow Tears and Blood" and "ITT" as a member of Superhuman Happiness, represents a bridge between the early adopters of Afrobeat and the recent recruits of the genre: "Fela's music has deeply inspired and impacted how we think about music," Bogie reflects. "From critical details like his use of guitars and bass lines in perfect rhythmic counterpoint, to his long and epic forms, his music is a treasure and deep reason for musicians all over the globe."
Each rendition on the album tackles each composition quite differently. Honoring the tradition of Afrobeat, "Lady" presents wailing brass and sax with funky electric guitar while other reinterpretations execute their track with more inventive deviance. For example, "No Buredi" is reimagined as an electro-house track by Nneka, Sinkane, Amayo, and Superhuman Happiness meanwhile dance-inducing R & B and hip-hop flavor "Yellow Fever" recorded by Spoek Mathambo and Zaki Ibrahim.