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Army arrangement

Army arrangement
August 03
07:44 2019
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BY VICTOR AKHIDENOR

‘Fela, how can you hate one of your best tracks?’

Fela: Victor, e be like say you no get sense…

Victor: (Laughs). But it still baffles me that you don’t rate highly the Army Arrangement track released in 1985. It’s in my Top 6 of your songs… (cuts in)

Fela: Top 6? And dem call you expert of my music. Who dash you that kind, wetin I go call am sef… compliment? Yes, compliment.

Victor: Well, you can’t deny it that the song is one of the most explicit political track you ever recorded. And whether you like it or not, Army Arrangement kept you in the consciousness of the people while in incarceration during the Buhari/Idiagbon’s military regime. I think Bill Laswell meant well while producing the song in your absence…

Fela: I did not like it. It’s not my music, simple as that.

Victor: How can you say that…? (cuts in)

Fela: I have a reason for everything I write in my music. I’m not writing for commercialism as such. I’m writing African music not only for myself but for the future generations so that they can understand African music. What Bill Laswell has done is not African music the way I hear it.

Victor: But you made use of electronic guitars in the song….

Fela: I use electronic guitars to amplify, but not for effect. Anything that changes the natural sound of my instruments, I don’t use. I will not do music with computers and electronic gadgets because African music is natural sound.

Victor: But don’t you think this has contributed to a decline in your popularity in Nigeria as other local artists modernise their sounds according to largely Western criteria…

Fela: I don’t have any intention to destroy the beauty of African music for money. I will never do that. Moreover, you cannot class my music like popular American music because my music is a different movement. So, you cannot say Fela is writing one song. No! Fela is writing a song with five movements. It’s like a symphony but in African sense…

Victor: Well, like I said, Army Arrangement is in my Top 6 of your songs…

Fela: Top 6? What’s that? What I know is Top 5, Top 10, Top 20 etc. What’s Top 6?

Victor: It is the vogue. Typical example is in the English Premier League. Analysts, critics, and fans needed to accommodate has-been clubs (like the Manchester Uniteds of this world). So, to accommodate their downward mobility, we changed from Top 4, to Top 5, and now Top 6 just to spare their blushes and let them think they are still a big club…

Fela: Oh, people are so brainwashed, man! English Premier League? African people were the first on earth and the first in technology and everything. First of all, let us take medicine as example before we go into the nonsense called English Premier League.

Victor: Okay…

Fela: To cure gonorrhea…

Victor: Gonorrhea?

Fela: Yes, gonorrhea. To cure gonorrhea, our people use the fungus of kenkey, a staple food from Ghana. When did the Whiteman know how to cure gonorrhea? It was in the last century that they invented penicillin. The Whiteman is not a superior human being, it was when they came to Africa they learnt many things. Like I said in my song Colonial Mentality

Colomentality

He be say you be colonial man

You don be slave man before

Dem don release you now

But you never release yourself…

Back to English Premier League, when was the last time you saw a game in the Nigerian league?

Victor: Actually, few months ago at the University of Benin sports complex in a match between Bendel Insurance and Enyimba of Aba. The game ended goalless…

Fela: So, your Top 5, abi na Top 6, analogy no fit come from our league?

Victor: Okay, let’s forget about football and come back to you and Army Arrangement

Fela: Army Arrangement! What else do you want me to say about that heavy, electro-percussion backbeats, altered tempos, processed studio textures, and overdubbed solos that characterised that released version of the song?

Victor: Like, is it in your Top 6?

Fela: You get sense so? I don’t have any favourites. If you ask my musicians, every time I write a new sound they say it is the best I have written. So, for me the latest is always the best.

Victor: You have not released a new song since 1992. So, it is safe to say Underground System is your best track?

Fela: I dey look and laugh at the moment!

Victor: Okay. But still care to know my Top 6?

Fela: Shoot!

Victor: Abami Eda, you no need agree with my choice o…

Fela: I know. I just wan know whether you get sense…

Victor: No.6 is Army Arrangement

Fela: Hmmmmm…

Victor: No.5 is Government Chicken Boy…

Fela: I am sure you listened to the remixed version which is the Side B of Army Arrangement?

Victor: Yes…

Fela: It figures…

Victor: No.4 and No.3 are Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense and Beast of No Nation, respectively…

Fela: Hmmmmmm…

Victor: Alagbon Close is No.2…

Fela: Alagbon Close? Great track…

Victor: Yes, indeed…

Fela: So, Mr. Man, which one be your number one?

Victor: It is a humorous observation of specific government officials – obstructive immigration officers, customer unfriendly post office staff, egoistic generals.

Fela: Hmmmmmm…

Victor: The track has a complex and full-force arrangement that makes spectacular use of the saxophones and other horns. It is the Side B of Original Sufferhead

Fela: I open my eyes; I see for my land…

Victor: Na wrong show o o o…

Fela: Everywhere you go; Everywhere you de; Everybody wan do him power show…

Victor: Na wrong show o o o…

Fela: Power Show is your number one track?

Victor: Yes, sir!

Fela: I don talk am, you no get sense…

The memory still lingers 22 years after your demise. For Ever Lives Africa!

Photo credit: Adams Gbolahan

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