Fela Ransome Kuti & The Africa ’70: Open & Close (1971)

Fela doesn’t seem to have as a much on his mind on Open & Close—a new dance and people who don’t do their jobs correctly dominate the discussion—but there’s a lot happening in the music. The most significant change occurs in the guitar chairs, as Fela employs two guitarists for the first time (Tutu Srunmu on rhythm guitar, Ohiri Akigbe on tenor guitar) to give the arrangements an added texture and richness. Fela also contributes a lot of musical ideas on top of the music with his loose, semaphore-styled keyboard playing. (Is it just me, or does he sound like he’s wearing mittens when he plays?) If Na Poi was a step back in terms of musical development, Open & Close is clearly a step forward. The opening moments of “Swegbe And Pako Part 1” slow down the Afrobeat sound and arrive at something completely new, before pursuing a more distinctive groove, and it’s this kind of experimentation that makes Open & Close an exciting discovery for Fela’s fans. With some lineup tweaks along the way, Africa ’70 had grown even stronger; bass player Ayo Azenabor, while not as pronounced as his predecessor, has a certain nimbleness that blends nicely with the sounds around him. The closing “Gbagada Gbagada Gbogodo Gbogodo” is the only overtly political track, recounting a military uprising against colonial rule, but even here the mood is upbeat and light on its feet. The pervading feel on Open & Close is one of confidence and professionalism. Some of Fela’s albums felt like hurried first takes. Open & Close, by contrast, feels well rehearsed and is nearly perfectly executed. Here, the music takes center stage while the politics take a brief rest, resulting in one of his most refreshing records.

Original LP Version
A1. Open And Close
A2. Swegbe And Pako Part 1
B1. Swegbe And Pako Part 2
B2. Gbagada Gbagada Gbogodo Gbogodo

All music composed and arranged by Fela Ransome-Kuti.

The Players
Fela Ransome Kuti (vocals, keyboards), James Abayomi (sticks), Ohiri Akigbe (tenor guitar), Tony Allen (drums), Lekan Animashaun (baritone sax), Ayo Azenabor (bass guitar), Igo Chico (tenor sax), Henry Koffi (lead congo), Tony Kupoliyi (conga), Akwesi Korrantin (conga), Tony Njoku (trumpet), Isiak Olaleye (shekere), Tutu Sorunmu (rhythm guitar). Produced by Fela Ransome Kuti; recording engineered by Emmanuel A. Odenusi.

The Pictures
Cover design by Mamuli Okotie-Ebuh. Artwork by Kayode Ademola. Photography by Afro Click.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in 1971 in Nigeria (EMI, HNLX 5090).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in France (EMI Pathe Marconi, 2C 068-81.957).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1987 in Nigeria (Philips, PH 2007) with unique cover.
  3. Re-packaged with Aphrodisiac on remastered 2-for-1 compact disc in 2005 (Wrasse).
  4. Re-issued with Aphrodisiac on 2-for-1 compact disc on February 16, 2010 (Knitting Factory) and in 2010 in Japan (Octave, OTCD-2218).

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