Roforofo Fight: Roforofo Fight is about human intolerance towards each other. Issues that could be resolved amicably usually end up in fist fights. Sometimes such fights end up bloody or muddy. Dramatizing the scenario that ensues before a fight, particularly in a muddy place. Fela says it usually starts with words like: ‘You dey craze! I no craze! Get away Who are you?’. These are two people who could quietly resolve their differences, screaming and yelling at each other. Unfortunately for both of them, the area where the argument is taking place is full of mud. Within seconds, they draw the attention of passers-by, turning into a crowd. ‘If you dey among the crowd wey dey look! And your friend dey among the two wey dey yap!…Tell am make him no fight oh!…’. Meaning if you are in the crowd watching, please advise your friend not to fight if he is one of the two arguing. Because human egos, instead of heeding the advise, walk away quietly. Both will feel disrespected and shamed. To settle score, the tow of them chose physical combat in the mud—a muddy fight follows. At the end of the fight, onlookers couldn’t differentiate the one from the other, both of them look like twins. They won’t get any sympathy from the people looking too: ‘…you don tell am before make him no fight! Roforofo dey for there!…’
Go Slow: Go slow is about the crawling Lagos traffic jam that symbolizes the confusion that reigns in Nigeria. Fela compares the traffic situation with a person in jail. He says: ‘you have to be a man in life!’. That is a natural instinct in man but when caught in Lagos traffic, all your aspirations and confidence as a man will wither away. You feel suddenly incapacitated, like a man in jail. Or how would you feel driving on a Lagos road and suddenly, in your front there is a lorry to your left a taxi cab, all vehicles in a standstill. Also to your right, a tipper truck and behind you a ‘molues’ passenger bus and above you a helicopter flying. To complete the picture of you imprisoned on the Lagos highway.
Question Jam Answer: ‘When question drop for mouth! Answer go run after am! When question jam answer for road? Another thing will happen.’ Singing about human nature, Fela says when people pose questions at each other, they definitely get answered back — the result of the answer could result into something we never expect, such as: ‘Why did you step on my leg?’ ‘Didn’t you see my leg on the ground?’, these are questions that need answers. Quickly answer replies: ‘Why did you put your leg in my way? Don’t you see me coming?’. It is a song to those who like to pose questions to always bear in mind that they may not get the answers they expect to their questions.
Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am: Broken English translation of ‘Trouble Sleep Yanga Am’ literally means: ‘toying with a loaded gun’ or ‘playing with fire’. It is a song talking about the limit to human endurance. Mr. Trouble is lying quietly and Mr. Provocation (yanga) goes to play around him. What else could he be looking for except palaver. A good example of such trouble-shooting is that of a man who has just got out of prison and goes about desperately looking for work in order to avoid what led him to jail. While at it, a police man stops and charges the man for wandering. Fela asks what could the police man be looking for, but trouble. It is like when a cat is asleep and a rat goes to bite its tail. Or a tenant who has just lost his job, sitting quietly thinking of where his next meal will come from. His landlord comes knocking, demanding his rent. Of cause he will get trouble bigger than the rent he came to collect. Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am simply means there is a limit to any human endurance.
Shenshema: Sung in broken English, this song signifies different things. It could mean a shameful thing if addressed that way, and it could mean out of use or out-of-service if used to describe a problematic machine. A care you have to push to start is Shenshema. For a woman who has thirty-nine men because she feels thirty-six is not enough is regarded as Shenshema. A man who has thirty-three woman and complains he cannot get ninety-nine is regarded as Shenshema. A man or woman who uses chemical products to bleach her skin in order to lighten his or her skin is Shenshema. Same for the man or woman who wears a wig to cover his or her natural hair.
Ariya: Ariya, in Yoruba language means ‘good times’. Fela, in Ariya, tries to convey the celebration of good times-saying: ‘…we are having a good time! It is no one’s business!’ What we get high on doesn’t concern them. It is a party song for everyone to get together and have good times.
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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Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell