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Baker's Dozen

A New Dance: Dele Sosimi's Favourite Albums
Richie Troughton , July 29th, 2015 13:19

Following the release of his new album You No Fit Touch Am earlier this year, the Fela and Femi Kuti collaborator, lecturer and exponent of all things Afrobeat gives Richie Troughton a playback of his all-time top 13 LPs


Fela Ransome Kuti & The Africa '70 - Open & Close
'Open & Close' was the first time I heard a drum solo in Afrobeat and that is why I chose that particular track. It is vibrant, it is not political, it's just about a new dance. And you know, it's called 'Open & Close' - open your legs, close your legs; open your arms, close your arms, at the same time. And it struck me what this is about - you just come here, get down, boogie, throw your legs and arms away, you know? Open, close, open, close…

[Track plays] Let me hear the drum solo. Ah! Come on! [Air drumming] Check that out man! The drum solo is the kind of solo that you would listen to back home. People used to listen to that solo. Not too fast. And the piano, the keys, everything about it to me, was just, you know, come here, forget everything, get down, throw your legs and arms away, and then throw your booty, your funk, and get down and have a party. It was a time in the country when there were loads of parties. Every weekend there was a party on Friday, there was a party on Saturday and usually there would be a party on Sunday.

I heard this when I was around eight or nine years old. You can imagine the impression on me. Man, I was like, this man is a genius! I hadn't met him then. So that is Open & Close.

I'd imagine that this is the one you probably have the most connection to, as you went on to play with him. How did that come about?

It never occurred to me when I was tripping on this that one day I was going to meet this guy, one day I'm going to be playing with him, one day I'm actually going to be one of the ambassadors of keeping that genre alive. I was just lucky I guess.

His nephew was a schoolmate. Although he was senior to me, we were tight, we were friends. He was a good piano player and he used to sneak out of school and go and watch Fela at The Shrine. Then he would come to school the next week playing the latest tunes for everybody. "Fela's got this new tune, it's called 'Yellow Fever'." You would see him play and I was amazed at the way he could handle playing the counterpoint rhythms, with one hand going like this, and then the other one going like that. Most people cannot do that. Go clockwise and then have the other one go anti-clockwise, you know? So, I was like, wow! Man, I would love to be able to do that too. So I used to watch and watch and watch, to try and memorise as much as possible. That is where the curiosity started. And then before you knew it, I had started listening to all of Fela's classics, working out the instrumentation, what each rhythm section instrument was playing. And then trying to play at least two together. [sings rhythm] You know, try and do that. All those patterns.

I started teaching myself how to groove, on my own, playing those things not knowing that one day I was going to meet the man. And suddenly I got introduced to his son, Femi. Femi then introduced me to his father and said, "Oh, Fela, this is our friend we just met, we told you about, whose dad was assassinated." My dad was a banker who had just been assassinated by some cartel who had just gotten away with, or rather they thought they had gotten away with, a big scale of fraud. And my dad had found them out and was going to expose them, so they had to kill him. It was a big story in Nigeria then. Nearly everybody knew it. And so Fela was like, "Oh, my my, come, sit down, sit down, tell me exactly what happened with your father." He was so concerned. He was like: "So, how is your mother coping? It must be tough on her. Did you get compensation?" You know, those kind of questions. I was like, "Femi, who the heck is this guy? You don't even know me from Adam." You know? Not even my own family had taken this much interest. And you are all over… Damn, this is the way human beings are supposed to be. I was about 14, highly impressionable. I was like, goddamn, this is the dude, man. From then on I just started to like him more. And I paid more attention to his songs and his lyrics and what he was talking about and I realised that this guy doesn't like injustice. Which is why he wants to make sure the right thing is done by us, in terms of my dad's bank. He died in the line of duty, protecting the assets of the bank, and I was like, "Yeah, this is my guy." From then on my life changed. So that is how I met the man. He was sitting down in his pants, smoking a big joint, listening to jazz! It was so cool, man. Yeah, many years ago.

Now look at me today. Keeping it going. But still also making sure I have been able to make my own personal statements, Afrobeat-wise. It has got the DNA from Fela there, but you can tell that there is a statement, it is a personal statement, there is a personal signature. And I am sure a lot of people will love it. Especially this new one. Yes! Well done Dele! Pat yourself on the back, you deserve it, well done!