The music of the late Fela Kuti lives on with “Red Hot Riot.” The music reaches deep to touch listeners deeper than most pop music. The thing about this album that’s more touching is its purpose.
The album is the effort of various artists from soul, pop and hip-hop music to raise money to support Red Hot’s AIDS awareness and relief efforts in Africa and around the world.
Red Hot is the leading international organization for AIDS relief.
A list of top selling artist including D’Angelo, Roy Hargrove, Macy Gray, Sade and a host of others, lend their talents to this project.
It’s a who’s who of concise minded artist. Artist you aren’t likely to associate with this project such as, Nikka Costa and “Chic” guitarist Nile Rodgers, make wonderful contributions on the Kuti classic “Water No Get Enemy.”
The song features D’Angelo on lead vocals, Macy Gray on background vocals and Roy Hargrove on trumpet. Hargrove makes his way to this project from straight ahead jazz but has worked on D’Angelo’s Voodoo and former classmate, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun.
No one could have sounded better on this project than Hargrove.
He seems to be the trumpeter of choice for pop music projects. Listeners just don’t hear young trumpeters, Nicholas Payton or Ray Vega, contributing the same way.
Rodgers is the primary guitarist throughout the album. In case you may have forgotten how good he was as a member of “Chic”, he definitely provides the listener with a distinct reminder.
“Shuffering+Shmiling” features Dead Prez, Talib Kweli and Bilal. The song questions the ways of organized religion. It is a protest song suggesting that Europeans came to West Africa and used religion to control African people.
The hip hop curve on the song is another example of Dead Prez’s thought provoking content that does not apologize and refuses to pull punches.
This line is one of many that sets the tone of the remake: Sending our prayers to the clouds/I want my heaven now/ freedom on earth/ and if the preacher ain’t with us then we taking his church...
Kuti mixed Nigerian rhythms and melodies with American funk and free jazz to create his unique “Afrobeat.”
The mix of American and traditional World Music musicians like Cheikh Lo adds a blend you don’t find on most albums of this magnitude.
Most projects like this are normally thrown together in a matter of a month and have more delays than the Raleigh/ Durham airport at Christmas.
This album doesn’t sound like that. It sounds well crafted. As a fan, I noticed the absences of Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean, who normally jump at projects like this.
I was also surprised that so many artists got clearance by their labels to work with the project.
The passion in Fela’s music lives in these artists. That passion is beautifully transformed into an effort that will help in the fight against the AIDS epidemic in his native Nigeria.