Monkey Banana (1975)

by Fela Kuti

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Monkey Banana is Fela’s advice to those who want to work for the Nigerian status quo without social security, heath insurance, job security, etc., to think twice before slaving for nothing. In his habitual manner of putting-down the Nigerian elite, he sings the popular English expression: ‘A fool at forty is a fool forever’—implying life begins for a man at forty. Fela says he will not advice his brother to wait until forty before the man realizes he has been making a fool of his life. Twenty, for him is the limit to make a fool of one’s life. After that, a man is supposed to know how to take his destiny in his hands. He sings: ‘…book sense different from belly sense’, meaning the reality of hunger is not always the way the elite like to project it. How can the majority of the people in Nigeria still live below poverty line despite the much publicized oil-boom. The Nigerian ‘elite’, who profit from the oil-boom encourage the younger generation to be optimistic, hoping the living standards of the average conscientious worker will improve one day. Fela advises the contrary, saying corruption and mismanagement of the Nigerian economy is responsible for the poor state of the social order. Calling on the worker to stop slaving for nothing, he compares the worker to a monkey, that can only be enticed to dance if you offer it the banana. He concludes by saying: ‘…before I jump like monkey, give me banana’.

Sense Wiseness: Fela, in this song, is singing of the state of alienation in which the educated elite in the African society find themselves. After their education in Western ways and mannerisms, the educated elite in Africa try to distance themselves from the ghetto. Sense Wiseness is Fela’s sarcastic way of saying: ‘book sense is different from street sense’. The song starts with: ‘You are student! You been to grammar school (college)! You graduate MA! MSe! and PhD! You go for London! You Go for New York! You come for Lagos? You start to miss your road! One boy for Mushin(ghetto)! Him hustle you! For Ajegunle (another ghetto area)! You ne get mouth! For Jankara (big ghetto market)! Your money lost!’ In conclusion, all your travels in those cities are not enough to see you trough the realities of the world. If you learn things from other parts of the world, don’t forget your roots. The only way to keep abreast of things is to always identify with your roots.

- Mabinuori Kayode Idowu

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released May 11, 2010

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Fela Kuti Lagos, Nigeria

Over a decade after his death, vindication has come to Fela Kuti, Africa’s musical genius. AfroBeat, his gift to the world, is now an international staple on his own uncompromising terms, social content intact.

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