TuneDig is an in-depth and informed conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music — one album at a time.

In each episode, we go down the rabbit hole to spend a while in the strange world we discover. We take an honest look at creativity in all its complexity—from writing and production to history and cultural impact.

We promise you’ll learn something new every time, no matter how much you already love the album we explore.

Episode 45

Expensive Shit

Fela Kuti

The story of Fela Kuti — one of the most famous people on an *entire continent* passionately struggling to liberate power to more people — is absolutely one worth deeply knowing, regardless of whether you find yourself drawn to Afrobeat or (cringe) “world music.” But once you know it, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Fela and Afrika 70 as their revolutionary grooves rewire your brain in magical and meaningful ways.


Cliff: You’re listening to TuneDig, a conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music, one album at a time. I’m Cliff Seal.

Kyle: And I’m Kyle Stapleton. Each episode we talk about a single album in depth, unpacking it through conversation to understand what makes it worth appreciating and learning a little bit about life along the way.

Cliff: If you’re listening for the first time because we’re covering an artist or a record you love, we promise you’ll learn something new or gain a new perspective by the end of the episode.

Kyle: And if you’ve stuck with us for multiple episodes, you know by now that you’re bound to expand your horizons. As we share a clear entry points for artists you may never have tried to get into before.

Kyle: Today we’re talking about Expensive Shit by Fela Kuti. 

Cliff: I was stoked. And now am more stoked that we decided to talk about Phil, uh, in one of the easier ways I think we can use to kind of kick things off here is when we were, as we’ve discussed before we were trying to kind of come up with like, what are the kind of central things that we can focus on that draw out a lot about this record.

And you said that the more that you get into music, the more fellow’s name comes up. Cause he’s like a musician’s musician, uh, in that’s totally true. But I think we started talking about this and wanted to kind of push it even further and especially for anybody. Who is not immediately like overwhelmed with a visual and auditory sensations after hearing his name.

Okay. Because let’s just say it this way. Uh, whether or not you are a musician or even care that much about music, you should still know about Fela Kuti, a hundred percent of anybody who is interested in music. Like, so turn that screw back on. Uh, you should know his music and his story. Uh, and to some degree, if this attuned big project is some sort of educational thing, uh, I will admit some amount of failure for having to wait this long to get Fela Kuti, honestly, because between him himself, the inimitable man and Africa, 70 his band, like we have of things to talk about. Uh, and so really the best thing we can do is just bring you a big chunk of fella, uh, which we have chosen to be expensive shit specifically, but we’re just going to kind of pick this up, uh, and set it down at your feet and really, really encourage you to pick it up and like go like, learn 

Kyle: and don’t feel bad about, not knowing or not having tried for any reason to this point. However you got here, we’re glad you’re here. I was really interested and I’m sure we’ll reference it a lot. The documentary finding Failla, but it came out in 2014, right at the outset. Uh, so they’re doing a Broadway play about, his life and his music. And multiple people say Failla was our like secret. He he was the one that was all of our favorite. but nobody talked about. kind of on purpose. And that was you know, only a decade ago or whatever. So 

Cliff: despite him being literally the most famous musician in Africa 

Kyle: Right, 

Cliff: for an extended period of time 

Kyle: The Nigeria. and, and, or African Beatles, for sure. So cliff mentioned, we picked a very specific record. step one is okay, I’ve heard of them now, what step two is you go to Spotify and you pull it up and you see a nearly bottomless pit, 2, 3, 4 song records that are 15, 20, 30 minute tracks. And you’re like, oh God, well, 

Cliff: Spotify does not know how to categorize of these things.

They’re just like, Ooh, they’re singles. Yeah, sure. Dude, 

Kyle: EPS, 35 EPS. Uh, and then all right, you cross both of those. humps And you starting to play something and it’s the song that never ends. It’s a groove that goes forever. and you don’t know where it begins and ends. And right, when you start forgetting that you’re listening to music, he starts talking

or the court or the courts comes in. That was great. I got more than I bargained. I did not know that you were, if I’d asked you to do a Failla impression, never in a million years since you’ve done it, and you just did it off hand, uh 

Cliff: real impression would have been waiting for seven minutes and then doing, 

Kyle: uh, ranting unhinge for a really long time about the police or the government. That’s where we really would’ve gotten a lot of press. Um, so without context, I can say it for the two of us personally, it can be hard to develop a relationship to this music. there, there can be barriers to entry at first.

However, if you will take a little bit of time to commit to this thing, Because people are convincing you to, I’m not even saying it’s an acquired taste. It’s, it’s pretty immediate. Once it clicks once you know the story. And once you get a sense of where the groove is coming from it is almost impossible not to love this music with your whole DNA.

Cliff: Yup. 100% on board. I think I texted you at some point while we were focusing on this record and told you, like, I, now I’ve gotten to where that little dude did. He did it the beginning of the song. It just like, makes me happy, whatever I’m doing. It gives me this new, fresh, like top of the morning type feeling.

All of a sudden it’s just like, uh, that is not what I experienced the first time I tried to do a Fela anything. What, what you’re saying rings true for me, it went from, I don’t get it to not get it. get it. I get it. 

Kyle: And we talked a few episodes ago, a lot about Erica Badu and raising vibrations. And if you Google Erica Badu, Failla, you’ll see that she, she compiled a box set

One of the five box sets of his records being reissued and called him literally a fucking genius. So there is a through line from that record back to his, catalog. uh, it is it’s Pavlovian. You’re absolutely right. The second that you hear the guitar on expensive shit, or especially 

Cliff: that little block in the background that they start 

Kyle: Yeah. or the, uh, the way that it comes in kind of softly, a little more like an ocean tide on “Water No Get Enemy”, like you kind of roll into it either one of those, it’s a mood lifter immediately. and it’s not because it’s like intended to be light, easy breezy. yacht rock it’s it’s diametrically the opposite. Uh, but you need the groove to lock in with and to give you energy. Um, and it’s so worthwhile, man. It’s it definitely, wants you pop on this thing, or you won’t you won’t stop. 

Cliff: Yeah. And you got to, you got to approach Afrobeat, which is just everyone’s word for Fela Kuti being awesome and doing things that doesn’t sound like anybody 

Kyle: it’s one, one half step, less bad than calling it. World music, 

Cliff: World music is cashmere by led Zeppelin. this is not close to that.

So it’s important to, I think, approach Afrobeat from, so I’m especially talking to anybody who doesn’t feel very kind of familiar with the genre. Uh, if you do just ignore me and go to some other podcasts about Afrobeat, uh, cause we’re, we’re trying to launder Afrobeat right now to a bunch of people who haven’t heard it.


Kyle: Not in the way of the David Byrne dead at all, 

Cliff: but to your point, Kyle, about like sitting with it, like this music is a totally different kind of use of music. Like we, you need to are, are like more American equivalents, I think are like, you need to get towards funk. You need to think about maybe even, um, from a physicality perspective, like electronica, uh, or.

Like drone, any, anything that causes you to experience like a lot of physicality as a part of the music? Not specifically though, not like I’m in a club, we’re playing a bunch of songs. I’m dancing to them. You’re not in the, like in that situation, you’re in the club and music is playing. What we’re talking about here is you are in the music that’s playing.

You’re not entering a separate space where music is coincidental. This is a full on everyone is in this moment. And the reason these songs can last so long and feels so long is because they are designed to be experienced. Like there was even some joking about basically fellow would stop playing songs once he recorded them, because that would be the end of developing this song that they had otherwise been playing live for a long time. And I don’t know that that literally was true, but that was definitely kind of a part of the ethos of like, uh, like the, the funk aspect of like jam it out, jamming out, jam it out. Oh, we got a better version, jam it out, get a little, okay.

A little different. Um, and like all of these become this kind of constellation of what the song is. And then it gets left behind 

Kyle: Our relationship with music has been so changed by the advent of recording. If you go back and like, I’m going to be the guy that’s like, I went to grad school, uh, if you read Dora Adorno was like one of those things that I didn’t know, I needed to help me in the ways that I think about music.

I think other music critics, that I’ve read, he’s still the sort of high watermark of being too pretentious. And

high-minded and like purist and absolution it’s about what music is. But I think if you really love, if you love music enough to listen to multiple episodes of this podcast And endure the two of us. I think you’re also the type of person who would want to read Theodore Adorno and he’s the type of person that’s like the experience of a written piece of music, or improvised piece of music loses its fidelity immediately. when you are out of the moment.

in which it is being created. And he, he would be appalled by streaming I’m. Sure. But I think Failla is a great representation of that sort of like get back to the, the timeless experience of how we have created and shared a communal experience of music. throughout history Like he goes way back further than the, past, you know, 50, 60 years, of, of the way that it, has. it has existed, essentially to be commodified, right? This is the music as part of building a society, truly its culture and ties into.

The squad Failla was as quotable a dude as ever there were in this life for the next. Um, but he had, he had really strong ideas about everything, especially about the how and why of their music getting made? And he said, uh, as far as Africa is concerned, you know,

contrasting it with the, the the origins and reasonings of Western music, music cannot be for enjoyment. Music has to be, for revolution. so one of the cool things that I think happens as you fall in love with this band, this entertainer,

and musician, uh, th these minds is that it it kind of rewires your brain.

and your consciousness, into something more radical and revolutionary. Like There were so many instances when I was watching, the documentary or really starting to try to study the lyrics fella was the punkest motherfucker there was man like, this. is, This is the epitome of punk rock to me, everything about, this story. and you know, in our, in our show notes, trying to distill it to the main idea and then the major points that we want to hit. Like we try not to.

over script it, But I have two main points that I put in here. Uh, Point one this man’s life was crazy And two, this music is unreal. Like That’s that’s it. Ladies and gentlemen, Good night. Have a great evening. enjoyed Enjoy digesting. those two things. 

Cliff: Thank you for listening to our podcast. This record is good. 

Kyle: So where do you want to start on this man’s life?

Cliff: I think we can start in any number of places, but it’ll be a journey through, We might as well, kind of like say this, now are aspects of, of fellow’s life and specifically his ideals and treatment of women that is a wrong, uh, and quite possibly abusive. And I say quite, possibly not because I’m really running interference, but just because I don’t know, we consumed a lot of content about this and the way that people talked about it was it wasn’t okay.

Um, but we’re not entirely sure the extent of it. And so we’re not ready to kind of, uh, condemn him forever. Yeah. And so I think that’s worth keeping in mind here, um, because the whole, I mean, uh, especially this day and age, this whole idea of like, can we carry a person forward? Who did things that weren’t okay.

Um, is that something that’s even we’re talking about or platforming? So I think, I think probably what we can say here is you will be able to see through some of the context and story here, why this story is worth telling while Fela Kuti is we’re talking about specifically why Africa 70 is we’re talking about why this record is we’re talking about why Nigerian corruption is we’re talking about and why many of the things that he did do though, fucking crazy, uh, were good benefited people in a lot of ways, made a lot of change happen.

Um, and we, we don’t, no one has to take the perspective in a life of saying, uh, all the good things that happened are. 

Kyle: moot 

Cliff: Because the person who did them also had bad ideas or did bad things. So we don’t have to excuse things one way or another. What we’re going to talk about instead is just how absolutely nuts and relentlessly he was pursued his own government, just for calling out corruption and then how he started, especially digging in after some monumental situations.

And it just flipped the entire thing all the way over into, yeah. I’m literally going to say your name now. I’m going to name names actively in music. And so when, like, to me, that’s an important kind of ball to try to wrap up because, you know, 

Kyle: We 

Cliff: You talked about how he approached music and how this, you know, I mean, his band is huge, right?

This whole collective of people. And then he lived in a commune on top of that, that he ran like, so he’s always in a community in, in collective with other folks. Um, and so I think it’s important to be able to see all of those pieces and understand that context. So you can really fully appreciate the absolute, like magnitude of this person’s influence, but then the influence of the people that he influenced, um, all the way from like his parents, uh, and their influence on him all the way down to how he influenced everybody else got influenced by James Brown, uh, influenced by black Panthers and then went on to influence people for decades on because he was unafraid.

So that’s the best I can do with that little ball of gnarly anise, but I think it’s important to bring up. 

Kyle: all, all necessary. 

Cliff: yeah. So. 

Kyle: Also worth calling out explicitly um, the the governmental sort of sociopolitical contexts, he was in uh, the wake of colonialism.

Hello, white Westerners. 

Cliff: Second time I went to graduate 

Kyle: school, 

Cliff: got up.

Kyle: I know what a fun lead into a sentence y’all seen this, y’all heard about this. night, Don came over in their boats. Uh, so after, after kind of put a pushing back British colonial rule in, in our parents’ lifetimes, like the late fifties, early sixties. um, 

Cliff: is recently independent. Y’all yeah, 

Kyle: Yeah. I, 

Cliff: in the 

Kyle: I, Like w w the Civil rights photo should be in color, not black and white, because that’s how recent it was.

Yeah. All of that. um, but just job smacking. Um, so, sort of, kind of in the vacuum of that colonial rule Nigeria in the late sixties, experienced uh, an absolutely brutal civil war. Um, I guess the, the civil war started earlier than that, followed by decades of military rule and scarily, kind of some of shades of things that we’re seeing in America in terms of a militarized police force, um, owned and corrupted by oil wealth, surprise, surprise. There’s rampant capitalism at the center of a big societal problem, who who knew that money made things bad, um, 

Cliff: or at least. Uh, a, the concept of capitalism playing out in the form of like greed and opportunism everywhere, it shows up regardless of how they set up their markets.

Kyle: interestingly, somebody said in the in the documentary,

which can’t stress enough, but you watch, if you’re at all interested, um, that there would have been no need for a Failla like no Failla would have arisen

had it not been for the way that oil ravaged Nigeria. Right? So there’s, there’s sort of uh, a need for, I don’t know if there’s ever a need for an iconoclastic type figure to rise. You know, you and I have talked and read about cult behavior in human tendencies sword, call it behavior and like the need for authoritarians and, and so like kind of celebrity worship and all, all the weird things we do attaching and projecting to, to people who ultimately are imperfect.

Right. But the, the symbols are the icons of people. So Failla kind of comes out of this void and has this incredible young life story. He’s from a well to do Christianized family. Uh, mom is a women’s rights activist, like one of the most prominent feminists and progressive voices really on the continent of Africa. Uh, and so he comes from this like distinctive lineage of of well-known meaningful people.

Um, and his older brother goes to London and studies to be a doctor. and Failla goes also to try to do that. And then immediately was like, Nope, hard. Nope, this is not for me. Uh, so it was, his brother was like, you need to find something. else support that same energy to, and so it gets into music composition. I think it’s very important to note. It was very important for me to know 

Cliff: that like, 

Kyle: he, as much as he is.

Uh, but somebody said this in an article

and I hope that we can, I can find it again and we can link it up that he’s less like Africa’s Bob Marley and more like its Handl, um, like the classical, composer, because he is, uh, he is trained in music composition and theory. So whatever you think about the grooves of the songs, regardless of what we’re able to convince, you of, like this man has a sophisticated musical mind. Yeah. And a very talented multi-instrumentalist as well.

There’s an anecdote about how it goes essentially to an open mic night in London. And he tries to play trumpet and improvise is totally in the wrong. key and out of time, 

Cliff: Um, 

Kyle: but then you see these later videos of him playing the tenor sax, and he’s a ripper, he’s like an objectively good player. So Failla In another context would have been a successful jazz musician,

in Western American jazz. I, I have to believe that, um, but chose to take on the stuff that was like, that was so much bigger. Um, you talked about the James Brown influence. I thought it was really interesting and, and sort of like a central tension, of failure’s life, the influence that, specific women had and his life.

Right? so he he occasionally had regressive or confounding views on, on women and gender roles, and whatever, but he went to America.

Um, and was then I think Los Angeles I think it was on the west coast and met.

Sandra as Adoray, who had heard his like London recorded output and what he was doing with his band. And I thought it was really interesting that she was like, Hey man, it’s the late sixties in America. Look around, like, all of these people are looking to Africa for meaning around their origins and solidarity.

And, uh, I think you need to be like a little more studied and measured and thoughtful about the kind of art that you’re putting into the world, And so she gives him Malcolm X. She gives him Kwame, Turay. She gives him, um, all this exposure to the Panthers and he starts 

Cliff: like 

Kyle: getting class consciousness essentially. Um, but it was all. Because this woman like put the books in his hand and he had a, a moment. Um, but he also saw James Brown and he, uh, saw Bootsy Collins playing bass.

And then that kind of like feedback loop came back to Africa. and He was he was never the same. after that. So the the seeds for Africa 70 were planted verse Nigeria 70, then Africa. 70 with a C, then Africa 70 with a K, um, was basically like he he’s an extremely worldly and studied dude. like, he studied in London, he traveled to America. So it was really interesting that he had this kind of worldly perspective. He was very exposed to Western culture and knew instinctively how to use the trappings of it, but to not get Westernized, he was like, I need to do the Africa version of this.

Uh, you know, it’s hard to know. Especially with so many years past. Now, how much of that was really intentional and forethought and how, how much of that just like came out of his instincts.

I think there were different camps who kind of saw different modes of thought with Failla, but the fact is that it happened.

and it’s pretty rad. 

Cliff: So I think of all the ways that we could approach communicating the narrative with him and sort of his trajectory, I guess. So you’ve brought us up to what eventually became kind of a feedback loop between funk and Afro-beat actually cause like Ben, James Brown starts learning from Fela, Kuti, and then back and forth and back and forth.

And they’re inspiring each other across oceans. Um, but I think the specifically, 

Kyle: again, only learned fairly recently that Bootsy Collins was in his youth James Brown’s basis. which is like I feel, I love all that music. So I feel so stupid for not knowing that until recently. And Now that’s in print. So, you know, whatever, um, W, well, we’ll talk about the shrine Fail. Fail is nightclub and Legos, but Bootsy Collins said, we were telling them meaning Failla and the band they’re the funkiest tasks we ever heard in our life.

I mean, this is the James Brown band. saying it, But we were totally wiped out. So like there was a feedback loop on a high level of respect. Uh, Davis even said he was a life-transforming artist. And in the documentary they talked about, that. They put them in a very small category of like the most important black music post-World war II with James Brown and the JBS with P-Funk with the whalers and then Africa 70 like very small Mount Rushmore of all around seismic influential culture, shaping music for, for black people and beyond. 

Cliff: almost like it gives you a glimpse that the struggles of the world all the way around are really classist struggles. Wow. 

Kyle: it’s all maybe a little bit tied into Africa in some way to, 

Cliff: and Mani weird. It’s almost like we know exactly what’s going on 

Kyle: everywhere.

Number three will shock you. 

Cliff: And, and so to that in like his, for someone to be experiencing, like, this is where it gets so fascinating to talk about. Sorry, I’m kind of like sitting here with my hands, trying to work my way through it. Um, it gets fascinating to think about how in Western culture, especially when we begin to see the, the rise of a star, they begin to experience like separation from the, I mean, everyone who is not now kind of famous and rich, um, and.

In generally, you know, when you leave out the farcical stuff about, you know, Willie Nelson’s RV getting pulled over for weed and stuff, generally speaking, you enter a new class, right. When you become famous, uh, or rich or whatever, or, you know, rich people love you, you enter their class. And that’s just, it’s a 

Kyle: the rules don’t apply to you more. 

Cliff: mean, yeah, like things shift in a way where you become kind of more protected because you’re gaining money, you’re gaining status, you’re gaining influence all that stuff.

Now, clearly that could have been a result, um, of, of Phil his progress, especially up to that point. I mean, literally, I mean, you, you’ve got the most famous musicians of that time calling you a world changing artists. so what’s important to see here is the constant.

Kyle: Paul McCartney said when he saw Africa 70 at this shrine, he wept openly 

Cliff: cause he realized he wasn’t that good at all. Yeah. I’m sorry, Paul McCartney’s okay. But yeah, Africa 70 

Kyle: shirts from Liverpool. 

Cliff: Oh man. Um, but what what’s important to see here and isn’t it critical context for kind of what we were talking about earlier with just like the kind of complexity and ambiguity of his life choices over time. It’s like, okay. He, he didn’t get left alone. Like a Western person would, um, he got arrested and beat the Nigerian police.

Kyle: In the hundreds of times, 

Cliff: times. Yeah. So to just like, put that back into context. Okay. If you get B 200 times over four years, that’s a beating a week. Like, so he is constantly getting like words, like bombarded don’t really deal with it. Right. He is key is constantly getting interrupted, bothered, abused, whatever, by the corrupt individuals who he is, every time they beat him more encouraged to speak out about in public naming names, everything.

And so there was this kind of constant 

Kyle: imagine like David Bowie. getting his shit kicked 

Cliff: Yeah. Once, you know, 

Kyle: like, try that exercise. anyone, you know what I mean? Try it with a Duran Duran. I don’t know. Who’s like, who’s the biggest travel, Michael Jackson, even what happens if Michael Jackson gets his ass kicked for, we are the world, 

Cliff: or I feel like this, this puts it in kind of sharper leaf, like think about raging against the machine even.

So, so someone who is openly antagonistic now imagine LAPD beat them mercilessly in front of groups of 

Kyle: like Rodney king level beating over and over and over in full view, of the public unapologetically and without, remorse. 

Cliff: And I like, I fucking hate extrapolations like that of just like, well, what if so-and-so did it instead?

you imagine, like that’s a really unhelpful thing, so it’s, there’s no, there’s no need to try to imagine exactly what would happen only just that we all know intuitively that that would go very different they came back the following week to beat them again. And then the following week for years and years and years.

And so it’s not only does this 

Kyle: it would maybe be to the level of like Oprah getting her ass beat or getting, or getting the MLK letters from the FBI type of thing, Just an unimaginably, large and beloved the the world over.

so to speak societaly by everybody except the people in power. 

Cliff: Yeah. And so that, I mean, Clearly that accumulates over time. That, I mean that, uh, not just physically, but mentally, spiritually certainly takes a toll. And for fella, at least if you believe him and believe the other people who talked about him, I mean, he kind of continued, he used those moments and that kind of abuse as fuel to keep going and got more and more tense until eventually, like it hit a really specific and sharp moment, uh, where, you know, you mentioned his mother earlier and how big of an influence she was on him.

Uh, and how, I mean, I think there was, there was a lot to dig up between the documentaries and, and other things about Failla that like his mother really provided him specifically with the strength that he drew on to keep pushing back on corruption. and that, that, that was his kind of lifeline to applying his energy to this over and over and over and over which like, I mean, 

Kyle: not just figuratively, she moved into the compound with him and like

kinda kept him on the rails, uh, tacitly endorsed his lifestyle a little or tolerated it because there was such a sort of understanding between them that what they were doing and their,

lineage was so important to, to the liberation of all people.

Just like, I, I love my mom and I know she would do anything for me, but I just, I can’t imagine that if it was like, I’m prepared to martyr myself politically.

on behalf of what I believe in that my mom would be like, okay, I’ll move in with you and do the laundry. 

Cliff: Yeah. And after you had been arrested and beaten, encouraged you to go back and do it again, harder 

Kyle: right? 

Cliff: like that, that’s a, that’s a pretty different thing. And so. You’ve got somebody really drawing on that and having that kind of close connection, uh, and then eventually his stuff with the police escalated until she was thrown from a second story window.

Kyle: Yes. Um, So that’s after the point of this record, um, just to situate it in context, um, not only was there a scenario where that happened. So Phala had, um, fail his compound was like right.

Kind of in the, in the thick of things in this, neighborhood and Legos, and it was sorta like the way in Atlanta, you can see the Braves stadium right from the highway it’s like accessible.

Right? So Legos already has this huge traffic problem because of the oil corruption. They mentioned that a lot of people have gotten cars and they’ve done nothing to deal with it. From an infrastructure perspective.

Anyway, that’s a lot of inside baseball. The point is basically every military cop in Legos descends on his commune. It’s like a thousand cops. They said, and that created such a jam up that like everybody in the area got out of their cars and like descended on the thing. So it was in arenas worth of people. It was like 30,000 people by their estimation, circling this compound, watching this violence unfold, just, like the Rodney king thing.

Except if everybody watching it on TV had been there physically in person experiencing it at the same time they lit his shit on fire. This compound worked like 200 people lived and coexisted 

Cliff: and worked and like he supported them and hired a lot of people and all stuff. Yeah. like a weird like sex Colt 

Kyle: It was, a little that, but that wasn’t like the primary 

Cliff: last half of my sentence though, was just like, Hmm. But it, 

Kyle: He got us on first day. I’m not going to lie. 

Cliff: it featured a lot more of the supporting aspects of a community 

Kyle: That’s right. There was an extreme level of mutual aid on display. 

Cliff: So I’m just making the point that like, uh, burning this complex, didn’t like liberate a bunch of people who didn’t want to be there 

Kyle: that’s correct. That’s absolutely correct. Uh, he hired people from the neighborhood from what was kind of a rough neighborhood where it was said by his kids, by a number of people that like, if they hadn’t been brought into the fold, they would’ve been doing, crime, probably they would have been boosting cars. and stuff. Um, but he brought him in a lot of times.

when he didn’t need to and like had them be plumbers or mechanics, or he would have his band teach them instruments and they would either play or they would do some function at the shrine or the became part of the road crew or whatever. He, he pulled people in to try to help them. So he was, he was sort of a class, um, elevator. He was like an elaborator by being an elevator He was trying to lift people out of.

poverty And be a rising tide. Uh, and that was dangerous because there’s quite literally strengthened numbers. Yeah. 

Cliff: Yeah. And, and so to your point, actually, we can kind of make a double point here because I mean, this is part of the story is just sad. Right? Like they murdered his mom. Um, 

Kyle: no, she didn’t die immediately. She died from complications resulting directly from that a year later and like 1977 or 

Cliff: Yeah. It is like, well, but they knew that it was, you know, directly related to the 

Kyle: the location 

Cliff: from that. And so actually to give you another entry point, if we, if we’ve already hooked you. Zombie that came, sorry. Now I’m saying it, like he 

Kyle: said. 

Cliff: it in the song B uh, so zombie came out in 1977. 

Kyle: Yeah. And We could have, we debated, we could have just as easily.

done that record, but wanted to back it up just a little to more of an inflection point. But If you are at all interested can’t stress highly.

enough that you will listen to expensive shit, but you would be very well-served to listen to Somby as well.

Certainly hope you do both. 

Cliff: Yup. Observation is no crime is an awesome song. 

Kyle: That’s that’s definitely one of my favorites for sure. That’s got, It’s such a weird, slow groove I’m an impossible to replicate groove. Yeah. 

Cliff: Everything. Every, every groove feels overly simple and impossible to ever replicate somehow, 

Kyle: yeah. Try to play literally any of these, beats on your hand, like your hand and knees. 

Cliff: when no one’s around, 

Kyle: Definitely when no one’s around. 

Cliff: but yeah. So, so zombie came out in 77 and was believed to have.

Been directly, like was believed to have caused the swarm or encourage the swarm on the compound, which resulted in the destruction of all this property and the eventual murder of his mother. And so it’s important to bring all that up. Not only 

Kyle: the zombies are the military police, his thesis was that people won’t be afraid of them if you make fun of him. so he was, he was belittling them for being mindless lemmings in a war that they knew nothing about 

Cliff: Yup. They, they only go where they’re told. Yeah. But that it’s worth fast-forwarding those couple of years to see this progression, because that really became another defining moment where we, you know, we, we talk a lot on this podcast about kind of like using historical lenses to go back and see things, a new.

And so for us to know that all of this happened. Uh, that he is releasing music that is literally resulting in the destruction of his life and property. He didn’t stop. Like it, it didn’t shift. He didn’t hide, uh, like that. Like he lost possibly the most important person in the world to him.

Um, and certainly by the way, other people tell it, you know, I had to take some time to deal with that, but like, 

Kyle: and his livelihood, like his whole, his place that he lived in supported others, all the money, that he lost in that and the 16 track studio, not that any of that compares to the loss of the most important person in his life, but it was uh, a tremendous amount a backbreaking amount of loss and grief.

Certainly that was the point of the exercise. Right. And not only did they not break him.

but he came back harder than ever. 

Cliff: Yep. Yeah. And he continued to do pretty wild stuff going forward to, uh, I make whatever points were probably applicable inside of his cultural context at that time. A lot of it is just like some of the stories are like, mm. I just don’t think I’m ever going to really understand that. Totally. Um, but that helps us, I think kind of like seeing that moment and focusing on, 

Kyle: go, go just one further. just indulge me and go one further to coffin for head of state Where, when his mother died? He, they, they walked her coffin through a processional through the middle of Legos, accompanied by people numbering in the thousands chanting and walked at straight up to the steps of the capital and dropped it there so that she could face directly the president who they believed.

I mean, who they knew confidently was responsible for. her death because he Himself. authorized the military raid, like, Think about that in a modern context of like dropping somebody’s mom’s coffin on the steps of the Capitol in DC and just like one how that would never fucking happen in a million years now. But to just like who would have the courage of conviction and the total disregard for their own life to do something.

like that, to make that strong a move. 

Cliff: I’m sorry, I’m going to, I’m going to turn the screw just a little harder. Cause yeah, I hearing that story made me think about, um, well, So America, like a lot of countries, but specifically we’re number one. Uh, we love war crimes. Uh, we, we love, uh, and we, we, we do them. Um, yeah. And 

Kyle: it’s, a war.

Cliff: it’s, uh, yeah, 

Kyle: war crime for your mouth.

Cliff: Jeez. 

Kyle: Jeez. 

Cliff: we’re gonna let that drift off. 

Kyle: Um, 

Cliff: while we were listening to this record a lot, like one of the things that came out recently, uh, was I think it was the New York times, um, who I hate talking about positively, but I think they were able to, through a freedom of information act, get the real video of the drone strike that we recently did.

Oh. That oh, accidentally killed him civilians. Oh, and fun fact, we did a whole investigation. Literally. No smiles on our faces. No, no smart, no wink. Dude walks out and says we did a full investigation and can’t find that anyone did anything wrong. So that’s kind of 

Kyle: In RPI, baby, no real person involved. 

Cliff: But point being what struck me about this and in terms of what you were just saying about, can you imagine, like, to me in, in that moment that I read about this, because I was thinking about this story, I was like, yep. I bet everyone wouldn’t be able to be so casual about killing women and children, uh, who weren’t involved in anything.

If they were brought to the steps of the Capitol and just laid right in front of us and went, Hey, Hey, that thing that we all said was okay, as a big company, you know, big country, full of 300 plus million people who say that 

Kyle: that’s a great Freudian slip, calling us a company first 

Cliff: companies or people to, for us to have made that choice. Like we have such a distance from the ramifications of that because no one ever makes us see it. No one ever 

Kyle: The closest we ever get is like the hundred thousand white crosses for the people who died of COVID like that weird, empty assemble as a me means nothing. You don’t, It’s not somebody’s dad turned upside down on a table, intubated, you know, it’s, it’s visceral.

That’s, That’s why funerals, are important because of the, the,

visceral response of the body. 

Cliff: well, and to that end. Wow. I didn’t think we would say like funerals, fellows, music, but, uh, it is very much like a no don’t look away. No, it’s right here. No, look at it. Like, even like, uh, fella had talked off hand in a number of, uh, you know, interviews or whatever, where he just kind of talked about, like, I, I’m never really talking about anything.

Kyle: Right. 

Cliff: I’m just like, well, clearly you are like, we know exactly what you’re talking about. Right. But he’s got this kind of approach of like, like, think about all the stuff we’ve talked about with Afro-beat so far and being influenced by funk or even having aspects of. Drone or other forms of dance music like this physicality of music, where, like we said, he’s doing a bunch of 10, 20 minutes songs.

So it becomes not only physical, but cyclical. And, uh, you’ve got a real rhythm to it that sets in for a real long period of time. And once he finally does drop in with vocals, he’s just kind of talking about exactly what it is he wants to talk about without a lot of like, you know, fluffy language or anything like that.

And so like in that sense, it really is like, it’s the kind of like open casket of music. Like, no, no, no. We were not having fun so much as we are gathered here together and we all matter, and this is how we communicate what we need to communicate. This is how we build revolution. This is how we build community with one another we’re here and this music provides.

Kyle: this 

Cliff: Impossibly thin veneer over, uh, I’m actively stirring up. All right. All of the time with everyone who’s at the show, I am actively being a dissident all of the time, but as opposed to, again, I think Western iterations of this, where we think of like rage against the machine is the easy cartoon version kind of right.

Kyle: But like 

Cliff: we, with our Western music, we think of like, if you’re going to be confrontational angular, punk dissident, that has to be expressed through the musicality and it results in a shift in John, right. It’s gotta be fast or loud or aggressive or, or. No such rules apply here. Uh, not only because it’s not Western music, but on top of that, it’s Fela Kuti, and he doesn’t really care about what any of that looks like.

It’s, it’s a moment, even more so than any of the moments we’ve talked about in music before. Like this is a far more communal get in here and look at this for a while. Uh, and then after this, we’re going to feel away and then we’re going to take care of one another. 

Kyle: I want to tie in a couple of,

musical threads. interesting to me in that context. so coming from the family background that he was in the documentary you mentioned how the presence of of religion, or whatever. I had them steeped in chance and liturgical ritual music. So there is sort of like an, a static reach upward that he understands. Uh, really intuitively, but somebody said specifically, that’s what gives his music.

The feeling of levity is like trying to reach for something higher, always, um, and I know like having grown up playing music,

and the church, you, you kind of get a little bit of a sense of that, but also there’s a quote, on his website and whoever does his. presence now in the world has his children and their team kudos to them because I I think it’s one of the few truly amazing jobs of Like somebody that’s not making music anymore. cat catalog music, so to speak. And it’s pulled into the present really beautifully.

The box sets the digital presence, all of that to you on the website. Uh, one of his quotes is music has a spiritual thing. You don’t play. music. If you play with music, you will die young. When The higher forces give you the gift of musicianship. It must be used well for the good of humanity. So, you know, a little bit like music, has to be for revolution, but there is a, there’s a higher aim baked in immediately uh, and the other.

So there’s sort of the musical aim And then the lyrical, think unlock for me is his very deliberate language choices 

Cliff: deliver. It’s a great way to put it. 

Kyle: Um, is the, so, you know, the franca, there’s, there’s lots and lots and lots of different languages spoken on the African continent. and certainly lots more. once you radiate beyond that, knowing the mass appeal that has music needed to have the choice to switch between your.

of a And like kind of a pigeon blend and English was to allow him to like Incode and ingratiate himself with,

the groups he was trying to reach directly. Can he connect on a deep level, but also go wide? so when it can be kind of hard for somebody who like only lives in the west ever and only speaks English. Like not knowing a lot of what’s going on. lyrically, There’s a time. If you are a multi-lingual multicultural person, there’s a ton, a ton, ton, ton to pick up there. 

Cliff: the language is definitely something worth sitting with, if you don’t have exposure to this type of music or this approach to language, because yeah, to your point, like the, the. 

Kyle: kind of 

Cliff: Mishmash of language approaches is jarring because he finds a way to be so direct with it. But at the same time, like there’s, it’s really cyclical.

There’s kind of like a playfulness to it though as well, where even when we’re, I mean, let’s go straight into the lyrics of this album that we picked out. Okay. Because eventually the people who have maybe been listening to us for the last 45 minutes, uh, are gonna hop onto this record and hear the chorus because they smell and they’re going to thank us.

They’re going to thank us for turning them onto something. So intellectually stimulating. Um, but like that’s such a good example. Cause like the story behind expensive shit, the phrase itself, right. Is cause like the police were trying to frame him. They tried to plant a joint on him. Apparently he was constantly too smart 

Kyle: Mint 10.

The penalty for that.

in Nigeria at the time was 10 years in jail for possession of any level of, 

Cliff: you could get death for a certain level of possession, like 

Kyle: Very, very not chill man. 

Cliff: cool stuff. So it Sweden, the Nigeria 

Kyle: now. 

Cliff: Great. So, but so they try to play in a joint on him. Uh, he as legend goes, but I feel like it’s pretty well backed up, uh, to, to feel like a true story. Um, but he knows they planted joint on him and he eats it.

Kyle: It’s also validated cause it’s happened to at least one other artist in very recent times. in Nigeria, this, this tactic 

Cliff: Oh, I thought were making 

Kyle: by the police 

Cliff: Okay.

Kyle: Fela, Kuti presents schnoz berries. 

Cliff: man. So he’s the joint. And so they know he fucking cops man, 

Kyle: this w uh, what episode of Atlanta is it? Where Derrius it’s like, I hit that.

joint. I need to go inside. Now. It’s about to get weird like that part of this doesn’t come into the story at all. Where he just ate a joint and was fine. 

Cliff: Uh, yeah, I think he was probably pretty experienced, so, um, but so he, he eats the joint to, to avoid getting rested. Cops are, uh, undeterred and await his shit so they can detect the marijuana in it because that is a way that they can, um, cops across the world feel that if they smell marijuana in anything that now they have free range to search it.

So, yeah. So, uh, Man. I love this story. So it keeps going. So, uh, uh, so the cops are now waiting for him to shit 

Kyle: in a =slop bucket. 

Cliff: yup. And he’s, he’s there in front of them. Like they’re monitoring him, waiting on him to shit. And he manages somehow to, to get the shit of someone else 

Kyle: swap 

Cliff: and pass it off as his own in a way that actually causes the cops who are, they’re trying to prevent.

From not being able to further prosecute, he gets out and he writes a song and he writes a song called expensive shit because I, well, because, uh, hopefully whoever shit that was was, uh, well taken care of, I guess, but also because if he hadn’t gotten this shit out, I guess it could have been expensive for him in a number of ways.

So it’s just a really good, like it, 

Kyle: I love once it dawned on me that it was like expensive in terms of being a massive misuse of police resources, it’s just like, oh, man, that’s sick, burn bro. 

Cliff: everything about it. 

Kyle: And two other sort of fun, symbolic things happened, a lag lawn, closest the name of the police headquarters. Um, but the commute, the big communal cell, the tank, uh, that they put him in they called it, it was affectionately hard Air-quotes called the Calacatta Republic.

Calacatta. being Swahili for rascal. So like, Are you rascal? You ended up at Calacatta again. Uh, when he was released, he renamed the commune Calacatta Republic. is just sort of a big like come back and see me at my own big communal cell. anytime You want. And then they did, spoiler. alert. 

Cliff: That’s so good. 

Kyle: Oh, but then he also, maybe this was, before that. um, but he changed his middle name to an, a capo for he who carries death in his pouch. Renamed his commune after the jail named his middle name is like the ultimate.

time. Like he who he, you can not be killed by mortal man 

Cliff: but I love it too, because again, we, we talked, um, we talked when we discussed, um, mama’s gun and we talked about being able to apply layers and go back to listen to songs again. And so to me, like having the story of expensive shit is like the, your first listen, after knowing what he is talking about is the best.

Um, it’s a totally new experience now cause 

Kyle: because the grooves so cocky Oh, it’s so powerful. 

Cliff: aggressively cocky. Like, it really starts to, uh, your, like you start dancing cause you’re like, oh, um, oh you fuck 

Kyle: I cannot be killed by anything.

Cliff: the song itself, even from a musical perspective, like it’s a really good introduction to the, the way that they layer in the groove and, and like really kind of trance you out after a while.

Um, because like, even in this song, right, like you’ve got, you’ve got that one riff that’s coming in a lot. It gets joined by percussion. Eventually you get like saxophone, but you get lots of stuff that gets like layered in kind of slowly over time and over time. And it’s. 

Kyle: like, 

Cliff: Trans is a really good way of thinking about it because like, what’s really interesting about failures music that we joked about.

Like at the top of the episode, it’s like, it goes on so long to where you kind of forget that he hasn’t come in here. And so like, uh, oh, unexpensive shit. When the vocals kick in at like six minutes into this, here’s what, uh, okay. And like it takes on this whole new body and feeling to it all of a sudden.

Uh, and then just one, one aspect that can only be looked at back in reverse that I really love. It’s like, okay, so expensive shit is like building the trance. Then he comes in he’s in for like the length of a normal song doing 

Kyle: vocals. 

Cliff: But then anyway, speaking of the thing that we can only say, now, looking back, like around nine minutes in there’s, this piano that comes in and it is, I could only describe it as the Mars Volta.

Like it is that it’s that very, almost like dissonant, how many pianos are there in this room? Uh, type thing. And they’re kind of get layered and getting. Squished around and warped. And you can’t really tell our effects being put on this, or is this just what happens when you mash a bunch of these things together?

Uh, and it just be like, it kind of swirls into this little experimental feeling thing. Um, which again, only feels out of place when we approach this from like a Western music perspective. But when we’re able to kind of shift, I think into like what Phil is doing and what Africa 70 is doing and what this, what Afrobeat is in general, will all of those things fit together.

Exactly. Right? Like why would you start at the top of the song with the vocals? Why wouldn’t you devolve into something? Absolutely wild 10 minutes in, you know, 

Kyle: I love that it, it pulls back and gets quiet and, uh, you kind of think it’s going to okay. It starts building back up. Once you start noticing it starts to build back up at 11 or 12 minutes, you think it naturally your Western.

mind is going to crescendo back down or whatever, but it just keeps going up and up and up and up and up and then crashes. And then there’s a weird atonal piano just by itself at the end like does not do dynamically. What you think it’s going to do at all. when you try to concentrate on it, which is It’s, it’s very wild. Uh, there are a lot of like little change moments too.

There’s one at like seven and a half. minutes or So where they’re very subtle. Like I’ve, I’ve never been a musician in a band. So it’s hard for me to think about music this way, but like a moment where there’s two snare hits and then they go into the next, section. is a level of tightness with this band. That’s almost indescribable where they are.

telepathic with the changes 

Cliff: to communicate how hard already is to get that many people together. 

Kyle: 13, 16, something 

Cliff: anything past three, it 

Kyle: an absurd.

Yeah. Yeah. Pass easy top it’s chaos. 

Cliff: And especially for marathon links of time breaks, this, this it’s like, that’s, that’s how, like the, his story and his artistry keeps unfolding, right?

Like eventually you start looking into it. You’re like, well, he’s a damn band leader. like doing a better version of James Brown than James Brown is after he saw James Brown, like a few times. And he came back here and now he can, you know, 

Kyle: James Brown never got handed a saxophone.

in the middle.

I just ripped a solo. All this all respect to the godfather, 

Cliff: then a cloud of cocaine appeared in front of the saxophone and James Brown was never allowed to do woodwind to get, um, or brass. Yeah, there we go. But

even from. Probably probably still in that finding fella, uh, documentary, but like, they would talk about how eventually he came to like, you know, he could do the same James Brown thing where like, oh, a turn of his head would indicate to everyone what was happening. And he would look directly at anyone who he felt was not adequately performing that day.

A lot of people said this and just kick them out. 

Kyle: You’re 

Cliff: replaced just like today is not your 

Kyle: The daylight live. They lived in fear of that. Look. that was a funny anecdote. 

Cliff: always wild to, I think we heard some of this too with, um, with miles Davis when we did bitches, bro. There’s something worth paying attention to when professional musicians are talking to you about effectively a dictator, but also saying I loved it.

It was the best I ever did. The music I ever made. Like he, they were incredible. Like that’s something different than just like an emotionally abusive perfectionist. Like that’s someone who is very good at what they’re doing and is so good that all the other people who are so good want to come be a part of this, despite the emotional abuse.

Kyle: Well, most of all being Tony Allen, who belongs at the top of your conversation of musicians to love, like we talked about Jackie Leibovitz, when we talked about, can you talk about the Mars, Volta and John theater, or like F every great drummer in the history, of whenever that you like think of, think of a drummer and their thing Made better By some through line six degrees back to Tony Allen, to some degree, right? Cause it goes back to funk and boogie and whatever, Like this is a, as much as you need to know about Failla, if you’re a music fan, especially if you love groove, music, rock, having music, whatever you you need to know and study Tony Allen, pretty extensively, um, quest love is in that documentary requests love and okay. Player have been active in stewarding the legacy of,

of Failla and of Africa 70 in Egypt, 80, uh, But, you know, Questlove is a drummer’s drummer And he said, that Tony Allen had the discipline of a Navy seal. Um, so not only is it just hard to keep a beat for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, whatever, especially without stopping, but an Afrobeat where the emphasis is never on the one. and there’s complexity to the pattern. always baked in. right?

Like we joked about earlier. in the episode, like, just try to follow the count of one of these beats in your head and then play the pattern. It was not intuitive at all. And arguably the only Western musician who was ever able to do it successfully was ginger baker 

Cliff: yeah. Who was pretty involved with Fela Kuti too, right? in what? Oh, no. The same year.

Uh, was he, I can’t remember. Was ginger baker on the record or did he help produce it?

Kyle: not this record, was it, it was the other record 75. 

Cliff: it was, he I’m thinking of he miss road, which came out in 75 because there were six records released in 

Kyle: Yeah. He was the Africa. 70 was the king gizzard and the lizard wizard. of the seventies. 

Cliff: yeah. Okay. So he misread was produced by ginger baker, but 

Kyle: at the studio that He helped finance and build. in Legos that EMS CDO, 

Cliff: Apparently they were close friends and would jam 

Kyle: Yeah. after that’s that’s a whole other interesting kind of dynamic I don’t, I don’t think either one of us have any interest in letting the sort of like Western angle into, this thing, dominate the narrative, but they did have a really interesting friendship, which is especially a acute once you re like once you remember that ginger baker, was like the most acerbic and hated man and rock music, like nobody likes him and he doesn’t like anybody in spite of his massive overwhelming talent, but he when Hendrix died and Creem bottomed out. in whatever order, Uh, he, like went for a road trip, that turned into him getting a land Rover in Algeria and driving straight through the Sahara desert and winding up in Nigeria and just like jamming.

with Africa 70 and then becoming kind of best friends with them. 

Cliff: telling me that ginger baker, he loved, prayed his way to Fela 

Kyle: Oh my gosh. kind of did 

Cliff: That’s 

Kyle: ginger baker in his lifetime. Neither lived nor laughed nor loved 

Cliff: like George Costanza’s mom, that’s great stuff. other track to, uh, on this record water nugget enemy, these don’t have to be super dissected technically or anything, but I did want to call out, like, I love the way the horns come in. I was telling you before we started recording that, like I just, I feel like I’m at a college football game, the way that stuff comes in.

And that’s not that doesn’t make any logical sense whatsoever. Right? The tie through aside from, uh, marching bands being heavily influenced and driven as all music. 

Kyle: is 

Cliff: By historical black colleges and universities, uh, who were more than likely very aware of Afrobeat or this idea of doing, you know, kind of any of this stuff.

But like I w hearing a unified horn section come in strong with a really good also call it a riff. Right. But like a really good melody line, um, is still, it’s still rare, even with all of the music that we have, right. You, you gotta go pretty earth, wind, and fire to get that good, good stuff. And this one just hits you right out of the gate, uh, on that song after you wait just a minute for it to come in and it’s man, it’s, uh, it’s funky.

It goes through some weird spacious stuff. Um, but it’s, it’s, it’s another just killer song that you could never kind of expect you at no point. Can you do the thing where, because you. Understand music theory innately inherently, because you’ve heard so many Western songs, you can guess the next court next progression.

There is so little of that here outside of the rhythm. Uh, and it’s just a, it’s a totally inverted experience of really long, complex physical songs. And it’s, I wouldn’t have thought of this as a record. That’s like an play it loud, but it is, 

Kyle: a great one. Um, I gotta, I gotta show love and shout out Tori Edwards.

Our buddy from Atlanta influences everything. who This is like one of his favorite songs and not, not long before we decided we were going to do, this record, uh, like posted a screenshot of it on his Instagram story, And I was like, man. I think we’re gonna, I think we’re going to do this record And he was just like this groove man, this groove, uh, And right before we started recording. I said, that, you know, this podcast has made me fall in love with like get new favorite songs, that no other circumstances that I’ve been like, this goes on my jukebox at my house, Uh, the other absurd, example will be hallelujah.

I can eat like 18 minutes of acid frenzy. Uh, but water no get enemy is like one of my favorite songs. now. 

Cliff: It’s so good. 

Kyle: It’s it’s in my bones for real, um, 

Cliff: walk around

Kyle: and it. it, The groove is like water

It moves to 

Cliff: you know, it kinda, 

Kyle: it moves very fluidly. The same way that we talked about in sleeps, dove smoker, the groove on that Bill’s like walking. arbitrarily through the sand and getting away from you sleep and Failla Congratulations. I’ve I’ve completed. I’ve I’ve fulfilled in the cliff seal circle. 

Cliff: We’ve, connected the people who tried the hardest and the people who didn’t try the hardest together over one long thing.

Kyle: So I love that these two songs are the songs on this record. Uh, cause there’s a contrast in the message a direct diametrical opposition to the messages of these two songs. like almost like a problem solution. So expensive shit. Shit’s like foul, right? It’s aggressive. It’s an in your face message and and water by contrast being pure and also sacred, especially in the African context, there’s like spiritual sacredness about water as a symbol.

Um, but specifically I think a piece of context that was important for me to learn is That the Yoruba hold the strong belief that nobody can be an enemy of. water. Like that’s, That’s a saying in Yoruba culture. Um, hence you know, hence the saying everyone must drink water, use water for cooking food, bathing, washing clothes.

and other items, whoever uses water for any purpose to not claim, to be an enemy of water, therefore by the transitive property, whoever uses water must not be an enemy of the person being prayed for, with water. So it’s

there’s a, there’s some like, 

Cliff: listening to this just hit the 32nd back button. Like

Kyle: What is that? Yeah, it was, a real tight coil of a hits blunt moment. Yeah. once you start to unpack it. And like, I totally had to do the one. Um, And I read one thing and understood 10% less and had to like work my way out of that hole, 10 or 12. And before I knew it, I was like downloading a PDF about, uh, sayings in your Rubin culture from like an African-American studies department.

Um, so we did that for, you y’all know, I did that. I did that exclusively for me cause that’s the.

kind of music fan I am. Um, but essentially, I got to a really concise sort of summary that somebody said that it’s really about water as a metaphor to suggest that the government should go, with the flow of the people.

Right. it’s all about power and the, the solidarity struggle and that everybody

should be more like water and go with the flow and not try to exercise too much control, like that’s Titus, how, and, and to be, to come away with that message on the flip side of like direct punk flippancy against uh, a piece of direct action. is like, I couldn’t love that more, you know? Couldn’t be a better holistic outlook.

The kind of two things taken in totality, 

Cliff: at the risk of being a little fluffy or crunchy here, like I think one thing that anyone listening to this can kind of take from us that we will also continue to do. It’s like, w w we gotta talk about this music? Well, w we literally have to talk about Africa, 70 Fela, Kuti, and everything that was around.

We got, we’ve got to talk about this more. This has to be a more direct and known and visible influence in how we talk about the progression of music, how we talk about the things that we learned, but, but also importantly in like, how something that you had mentioned, you know, in the weeks of us kind of talking about this stuff, it’s like, it’s important to find ways not to let his legacy be not only diminished or dismiss, but co-op.

And that’s, that’s why it was important to lay out as much kind of nuance as we have about this, because it’s, uh, yeah, there are angles or details or whatever that could be problematic. They, um, they can be problematic. That’s fine. But like, there’s still this much bigger thing here that we have to continue to pay attention to you because as we like jokingly say, but it’s also true, like fellow struggle of, of class struggle of against corruption of people who use violence to get money and keep it and use it to accumulate power.

That is the struggle that. American civil rights icons went through that. I mean, apartheid, like all of this stuff right. Is, is driven by like sometimes races are corollary so that we can like in America, right? Like those things align, but like the struggle is class. Or if you want to go further into this reap cast by, uh, Isabel Wilkinson, uh, but being able to basically do what we did, like I’d I’d love to encourage you to do more of what we did in the sense of don’t just dive further into expensive S**t or zombie or Fela Kuti in general or anything or Afrobeat.

Don’t just dive into it in the same way that you can with a lot of the other records we’re talking about where, I mean, yes, you’re going to get personally fulfilled. The s**t jams, dude, like it’s fun. Uh, it’s like, literally it’s fun to listen to It’s fun to put on. It’s fun to talk to other people about, but also I think there should be a seriousness an intentionality that you take that we want to compel you towards.

That says no, like this is important because it’s important. Like, and because he was important and because his music was important and because this struggle and this idea of pushing back against corruption is important. We’re going to talk about it. So like, I’m going to tell someone I’m going to like evangelize Fela, Kuti, like go tell someone new who likes music, who, you know, doesn’t know shit about this record.

Uh, it like put it on their Spotify, drop it in their lap, dude. Like more people just need to be without context or even nuance just dropped into Afrobeat So that you can start to be a part of what was happening and help represent it. Because I mean, he, what I brought a Broadway musical helped bring his life from another continent to ours.

But like anytime we find someone or something worth celebrating and exploring, we should not let a musical, uh, be the only way that we do that. Uh, not to mention the fact that like for irony sake, right? At the beginning of finding fellow, someone says like, fellow’s music is like the opposite of a musical.

So like there, there are just so many ways where. It’s It’s worth bringing up this body of work in like conversation. You don’t have to make a point or defend it. It’s like more people need to know about this. Like this needs to spread. Um, in like even we, as people who generally knew something about Fela Kuti, we knew a few records here or there or whatever.

Like, I think you’d agree. Like I I feel more compelled than ever to be able to represent more of this work so that if anyone has any idea about it, I can encourage them to keep learning more. And if they don’t know about it, I can introduce them to this whole new whole new approach to music. Uh, that really doesn’t have, uh, a coral area in our, in our modern Western music out.

nothing like this.

Kyle: Go to tunedig.com for your chance to win a free vinyl copy of the album we just covered. And follow us on Instagram and Twitter for even more info about the album, including playlist links to interesting articles and videos and even some stories that didn’t make the episode. Most importantly, though, please support your favorite local record store, concert venue, or buy merch from a band you love. Thanks for listening.


We’ve curated an entire year’s worth of albums to spin, one for every single day.

If you’ve listened to TuneDig, you already know these 366 picks span history, genres, and cultures. Each day presents an album that’s fundamentally different than the one that came before it, and the one that comes after.

Original "Bitches Brew" Art

To celebrate the endless creativity of Bitches Brew—and especially its famous album artwork—TuneDig partnered with two incredible Atlanta-based artists to create one-of-a-kind, handpainted gatefolds.

With the spirit of the original art in mind, each artist brought their own vision to life. These pieces will spark conversation for any jazz fan.

Each piece includes a new vinyl copy of Bitches Brew. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to the artist, so take this opportunity to support the arts in the raddest possible way.

Seriously. There’s literally only one of each. Make it yours. 😎

TuneDig Episode 52: Alain Goraguer’s “La Planète Sauvage”

Gather ’round, sommeliers of the strange and crate-digging boogie children, for something “Strange! Frightening! Fascinating!” awaits. The soundtrack to Cannes 1973’s Jury Prize-winning film is a dazzling, surreal, avant-garde hymn to cosmic knowledge and compassion and a secret handshake among real heads. If you’re after a trip to a new dimension, here’s your one small step for man.

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TuneDig Episode 51: Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”

Marvin Gaye’s well of soul power ran mighty deep, and deep into his career, he pulled up a bucket of ice-cold, silky smooth champagne called “I Want You.” Come for the lush instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and Leon Ware clinic; stay for the stories. For our return from hiatus, we observe a titan in his element, reflect on the pain that built him into one, and consider how to reconcile our feelings when complicated messengers deliver beauty to our door.

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TuneDig Episode 50: Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”

Before uniting one nation under a groove, the lysergic lords of chaos in Funkadelic harnessed wild lightning into an amulet called Maggot Brain, bestowing the bearer with raw, dark power stronger than any force known to man. Between reaching our 50th episode and coping with the “maggots in the mind” of today’s universe, it felt like the right time to free our minds. We hope y’all’s asses will follow.

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TuneDig Episode 49: Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda”

The story of Alice Coltrane — an accomplished bebop pianist from Detroit who transcended into something far greater before walking away from public life altogether — is a glimpse into what it means to be truly free. Alice’s masterpiece "Journey in Satchidananda" is a cosmic dance that sparked creation from destruction. And in a time when we’re all desperately searching for a spark of meaning and hope, Journey abides abundantly.

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TuneDig Episode 48: Heart’s “Little Queen”

Take a moment to appreciate Ann and Nancy Wilson, who kicked down the doors of rock ‘n’ roll’s boys’ club with their peerless guitar work, soaring soul vocals, and tight songcraft. 1977’s Little Queen — an oft-overlooked gem in the classic rock canon — offers a snapshot of those elements at their most urgent and pure, powered by the Wilsons’ simple motivation (as described by their producer): “It was a war.”

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TuneDig Episode 47: Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra”

When you think of “electronic music,” what comes to mind may not be a genre you deeply love — hip-hop, house, new wave, or even dub reggae — but all of it owes some debt, scientifically or otherwise, to Tangerine Dream. Dig in with us as we study a prime example of the band’s brand of effortful innovation, where they patiently and persistently labored at the cutting edge of electronic technology to open a portal to new worlds in our minds.

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TuneDig Episode 46: Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR”

Did you catch one of 2021’s biggest albums, or like us, did you almost overlook it? If you have any expectations of pop music, "SOUR" will likely subvert them. Teenage dream this is not; it’s an exquisitely universal portrait of a weird time to be alive.

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TuneDig Episode 45: Fela Kuti’s “Expensive Shit”

The story of Fela Kuti — one of the most famous people on an *entire continent* passionately struggling to liberate power to more people — is absolutely one worth deeply knowing, regardless of whether you find yourself drawn to Afrobeat or (cringe) “world music.” But once you know it, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Fela and Afrika 70 as their revolutionary grooves rewire your brain in magical and meaningful ways.

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TuneDig Episode 44: Meshuggah’s “ObZen”

Meshuggah’s ObZen—an artifact of human creativity pushing the limits of what’s possible—will quite literally make you hear music differently. If you’re looking for a new musical adventure, and especially if you don’t think you like “heavy” or “weird” music, consider this your sign to push past your comfort zone.

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TuneDig Episode 43: mewithoutYou’s “Catch For Us the Foxes”

A misunderstood wise man once said “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds.” In our most personal and vulnerable episode yet, we do some seeking through the lens of songs that fill us with the bravery and sincerity to love ourselves and others fully. Dig deep with us as we fish for words about our tiny place in the universe and dance with gratitude for our ability to do so.

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For lifelong headbangers and the musically curious alike, a new podcast from TuneDig is here to push your palette with aggressive, abrasive art. Each short, fast-paced episode offers (1) a new metal, punk, noise, or experimental release we recommend, (2) a related playlist we’ve curated, and (3) a heavy issue to consider and an organization doing something about it. Join us in the void.


TuneDig Episode 41: Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”

Let’s be clear: "Bitches Brew" is a challenging record, even to some of the best musicians in the world — but all of them say it’s worth the investment. It’s the kind of trip that, even if we *could* draw a map, it wouldn’t take you there. Let go of the need for meaning and enjoy the ride with us. We can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised where you end up.

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TuneDig Episode 40: Fiona Apple’s “Tidal”

On the heels of one of 2020's most acclaimed albums — Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters — we revisited Apple’s debut Tidal and wound up working to extract ourselves from the mostly male gazes that made its reception … much different. We arrive at a question much like writer Jenn Pelly had: “People would constantly prod Fiona on how an 18-year-old could write songs as mature as these ... Why did they not ask instead how she became a genius?”

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TuneDig Episode 39: Death Grips’s “The Money Store”

The modern world is accelerating beyond our control, shaping our reality in ways we can’t yet perceive or understand. Enter Death Grips, an art project capturing the chaotic energy and illustrating the absurdity of our hubris in trying to harmonize the surreal and extremely real — never more perfectly than on 2012’s prescient "The Money Store".

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TuneDig Episode 38: Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown”

Reggae music is easy to take for granted, but its impact is underappreciated and massive — in the case of dub in particular, everyone from Radiohead to Johnny Rotten to Run-DMC owes it a debt. Augustus Pablo and King Tubby together created what’s regarded as “one of the finest examples of dub ever recorded.” Join us as we dive into the culture, history, and unique engineering experiments that made it possible.

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TuneDig Episode 37: Rihanna’s “ANTI”

By every measure — sales, awards, chart-toppers, global name recognition — Rihanna is objectively as big as the Beatles ever were. In fact, ANTI is so big it’s still on the charts, a record five full years later. Take a closer look with us at “the record you make when you don’t need to sell records”, and get a taste of the true freedom that comes from focusing on your inner voice when faced with insurmountable expectations.

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TuneDig Episode 36: Son House’s “Father of Folk Blues”

All American music traces back to the blues, and deep at the root sits Son House. That the recordings on "Father of Folk Blues" even exist is something of a gray area that cuts to the heart of the great American myth, but wherever you land after hearing these stories, you’ll find that what matters most is what the great Muddy Waters once said of House: “That man was the king.”

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TuneDig Episode 35: Melvins’s “Stoner Witch”

The futility of describing the Melvins has stretched critics in the direction of absurd words like “Dadaist” for nearly 40 years now. They’ve belligerently flogged any attempt to pinpoint their essence simply by being themselves, but "Stoner Witch" remains a reliable mall directory for the Melvins’ vast and wild discography. Grab yourself some pretzel bites.

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TuneDig Episode 34: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

We should talk about Dolly the way we talk about Prince. Her extraordinary kindness and unique kitsch both make her universally loved, but what gets left out of the conversation is the very thing that made her famous: the music. Join in as we focus attention on the sonics and songwriting of the low-key masterpiece "Jolene".

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Kyle and Cliff

BONUS TRACK: How We Got Here

We got a bunch of interesting listener feedback in our off-season, and it encouraged us to shed some light on why we do things the way we do ‘em. Also, we reflect on our first writeup, which was ... interesting.

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We're Cliff (right) and Kyle (left). We’re two dudes born and raised in ATL with day jobs in tech and sustainability, respectively.

We met in middle school, and in one way or another, music’s been the thing that’s kept us close for the two decades since — whether it’s sharing and talking about new music (like this podcast, except in our texts or over beers), going to shows, or working with our favorite record stores to help them survive and thrive.

We started TuneDig as a little art project that connects us more deeply ourselves and to the world through the infinite gift of music. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations, let us know what you think, and share discoveries of your own.

More About TuneDig

TuneDig began as a little something called MusicGrid.me, which we created after realizing there was no place online to directly exchange music recommendations with your friends. Our aim was simple: to make rating albums simple, useful, and social. We got some love from places like MashableWiredEvolver.fm, and Hypebot. We managed to foster conversation between music lovers, get thousands of reviews, and meet great people.

Along the way, we realized that record stores were an essential part of the music lovers’ community. After many a conversation about how we could helpfully connect them to the people who loved them, we began helping them leverage technology to create new revenue streams and embrace streaming services without giving up what’s unique to them: expertise and curation. (Long live the counter clerk who knows exactly which record will be the right introduction to jazz fusion!)

TuneDig is our vision to connect music lovers with the music they love, because no matter how much has changed in the way we discover and enjoy music, recommendations from people you trust and respect will always be the best way to find new music you’ll dig. With this podcast, we’re channeling the spirit of trusted curation pioneered by record stores, and bringing you something to take you deeper into music you can love.