Music Freedom Day video: ‘From Zombies to Revolutionaries’

In the lead-up to the annual Music Freedom Day on 3 March 2016, Freemuse is proud to present the music video for a unique track with a group of today’s most powerful Arab and Iranian revolutionary artists joining together to cover Fela Kuti’s most powerful political song, ‘Zombie’.

“Music is the weapon of the future!” So declared Africa’s legendary artist, Fela Kuti, shortly before his death. It was true in Nigeria a generation ago, and it’s still true across Africa, the Middle East, and indeed the world today.

In the spirit of Fela’s fearlessness, political insight and endless grooves, a collective of musicians, singers, rappers and producers from over a dozen countries has come together to forge a project dedicated to taking the power of his music and politics and spread it to the generation now struggling for freedom and dignity in the Arab world, Iran, and throughout the African Continent.

One was beaten, one was imprisoned, two escaped the living Hell of Yarmouk refugee camp; all have been questioned by the police and faced censorship. But their music cannot be stopped.

This track is the first in a series of songs inspired by Fela’s incomparable music featuring the most powerful political artists of the last decade hailing from the Middle East and Africa: from Morocco to Mali, Nigeria to Iran, Egypt to Palestine.

‘Zombie’ features Fela Kuti’s son and inheritor of his seminal band, Egypt 80, Seun Kuti, Egypt’s “singer of the Revolution,” Ramy Essam, Moroccan rapper and activist El Haqed (L7a9ed, “The Enraged One”), Karim Rush of the legendary Egyptian hiphop crew Arabian Knightz, one of Iran’s premier rappers (and its first major female one), Salomé MC, and the Paris-based Palestinian-Syrian duo Refugees of Rap, who escaped Yarmouk Camp in the outskirts of Damascus at the height of the civil war with barely their lives.

The groove for ‘Zombie’ was laid down by one of Europe’s hottest bands, Voodoo Sound Club, in their studio in Bologna [w/ support of Russi Brass Band Arrangement by Riccardo Pittau w/ Andrea Scardovi from Duna Studio (Ravenna)].

Production was provided by multiple-Grammy winner Anton Pukshansky, Italian producer Andrea Deda, Moroccan-Italian Gnawa-funk master and filmmaker Reda Zine and guitarist, professor and author Mark LeVine. It was recorded and mixed literally all over the world, including Los Angeles and Lagos, Cairo and Casablanca, Paris and Tokyo. The music takes the power of Fela’s original groove and updates it with a hiphop foundation, without losing any of the spontaneity and improvisation that have always defined Afrobeat.

The lyrics are inspired by Fela’s withering criticism of the mindlessness of soldiers and thugs who oppress and kill without thought on orders from superiors — a problem that most every citizens of Africa and the Middle East has experienced first hand.

But they are no mere translation of his words into Arabic and Persian. Rather, each artist interpreted the original lyrics and used them to write about their own experiences and those of their countermen and women.

It’s rare to have a song featuring both Arabic and Persian, and this is the first time Fela’s music has been recorded by artists from the Arab world and Iran. ‘Zombie’ doesn’t just take on the most important problem facing the region today — the refusal of military regimes to allow their peoples lives free of oppression, state violence and massive corruption — it heralds a long overdue meeting of Africa north and south of the Sahara, and the Middle East as well.

Don’t miss the second collaboration, now in production, ‘No Agreement’, currently being recorded somewhere in the Niger Delta.


» Listen to the song

To download MP3 audio file: Right-click and use drop-down menu

‘Zombie’ by Fela Kuti | Originaly released in Nigeria in 1976 by Coconuts Records. Recorded by Voodoo Sound Club with Banda di Russi at Duna Studio Italy, feat. Seun Kuti (Nigeria), l7a9d/El Haqed (Morocco), Ramy Essam (Egypt), Rushzilla (Egypt), Salome Mc (Iran), Refugees of Rap (Syria/Palestine) | Remixed by Afnorock and Deda in 2015.

زومبي، معاد الحاقد، كريم رشزلا، سلومي م.س.، لاجئي الراب ,رامي عصام, ,

Video production of ‘Zombie’ by Reda Zine @afnorock cc by 4.0

» Read more: Freemuse presents: ‘From Zombies to Revolutionaries’