Spinning off the legit success of the musical “Fela!,” Knitting Factory Records will launch a comprehensive reissue of Afrobeat titan Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s albums in February.
The first flight of six CDs, comprising nine of the earliest Fela albums, will drop Feb. 16. Titles include “The ’69 L.A. Sessions,” cut when the Nigerian musician was temporarily based on the West Coast; “Live With Ginger Baker,” an early-’70s date with the rock drummer best known as a member of Cream; and pioneering Afro-beat works like “Open and Close,” “Gentlemen” and “Confusion.”
The second group of albums drawn from Fela’s catalog of nearly 50 releases will see release this spring. All titles are being remastered and will be issued in digipaks.
Kuti was a major figure in African music and politics. Operating out of a commune-like performance space, the Shrine, in Lagos, Nigeria, he fused funk, jazz and native rhythms into a roiling, dance-oriented personal style. His outspoken lyrics, which openly mocked and attacked the repressive Nigerian government, prompted violent persecution by the state military. He died from AIDS complications in 1997.
Fela!,” the musical helmed by director-choreographer Bill T. Jones, is enjoying a hit run at Gotham’s Eugene O’Neill Theater. House band for the show is the Brooklyn-based Afrobeat group Antibalas.