Fela Kuti, Coffin For Head of State / Unknown Soldier

Jess Harvell

By Jess Harvell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Coffin For Head of State

Fela Kuti
Suffering from the death of his mother, Fela gets dark.

Undoubtedly the darkest of Fela's records, "Coffin for Head of State" was a response to the death of his mother from injuries she suffered falling from a window during the 1977 army raid on Kalakuta. Unlike the fiery "Kalakuta Show," his previous response to a raid on the compound he had declared an independent state, "Coffin" drags itself through its duration like a funeral march; Fela actually delivered his mother's coffin to the steps of Nigerian president Obasanjo himself. Gone are the slyness of "Zombie" and "Expensive Shit"; in their place is the anguish of a bereaved son. This is the most emotionally naked record Fela would ever make. 1979's Unknown Soldier makes for a thematically appropriate pairing.