Songhoy Blues plays Fela – featuring Femi Kuti


for Music Freedom Day 3 March 2017 – and the days to come

The song ‘Shakara’ featuring Songhoy Blues with special guests Femi Kuti and Madu Diabate, recorded exclusively for broadcasters on the occasion of the annual Music Freedom Day.

Details about the song

Name of song: Shakara
Composers: Fela Kuta, Songhoy Blues, Mark LeVine
Lyrics: Fela Kuti, Songhoy Blues
Artists: Songhoy Blues
Production: Produced by Songhoy Blues, Mark LeVine, Anton Pukshansky and Manjul
Recorded: In Bamako, Mali, on 31 January to 1 February 2016, in Austin, USA, in June 2016, and in Lagos, Nigeria, in January 2017.

The song is provided to broadcasters for live and pre-recorded programmes – but not for streaming

Download Shakara in high resolution
The links below point to a downloadable high-res wav-file and mp3-file of the final mix. On a PC, right-click to download – on a Mac, hold the CTRL-button down while clicking on the link, and then, in the dropdown menu that appears, choose ‘Save File’ or ‘Download’:

» Wav-file:

» MP3-file:

Background to the recording

In the summer of 2015, Mark LeVine met rising Malian world music stars Songhoy Blues at a show in Malmö, Sweden. The band, featured in the celebrated 2015 documentary ‘They Will Have to Kill Us First’ about Mali’s threatened artists, listened to LeVine’s production for Freemuse and Music Freedom Day 2016 of the Fela Kuti hit ‘Zombie’ which featured many of the most powerful political artists of the last decade hailing from the Middle East and Africa – including Fela Kuti’s son, Seun Kuti.

The song is part of an ongoing project, and in the year since ‘Zombie’ was released producers Mark LeVine, Reda Zine and Anton Pukshansky have been working on two new songs for the project.

The Malian band immediately agreed to collaborate on a song together. In the beginning of 2016, LeVine was able to take them up on their offer while both were participating in the first international festival held in Mali since the northern Mali conflict erupted, the Festival Acoustik de Bamako. In-between concerts and after several days spent choosing and researching the music, they together decided on one of Fela’s most famous songs, ‘Shakara’, whose energy and groove were a natural fit for the hard-charging Malian blues-rock quartet.

With new lyrics written by the band in their native dialect, riffing off of the original’s condemnation of the rich Nigerians who showed off their wealth as so many suffered in grinding poverty, Songhoy Blues version of ‘Shakara’ takes Fela’s Afrobeat music style in a new, Malian-driven rocking direction.

A band celebrated for their heavy riffs and “all-stops-out” guitar sound, Songhoy Blues for the first time recruited some of Mali’s most celebrated traditional musicians to join them on the track. With Madu Diabate on kora, Yacouba Sissoko on ngoni and talking drum, and a group of equally talented percussionists and horn players, ‘Shakara’ truly is a ground breaking song, taking Malian rock into new directions and uniting the famed Afrobeat funk of Fela with the melodious and “ecstatic” – as the New York Times described the band – sound of Mali’s beloved music.

Even better, after months of anticipation and in between his frequent world tours, Femi Kuti, scion of the Kuti name, recorded a blazing sax solo over the track in literally one take in a Lagos studio, after being sent a rough mix of the song.

A month later, when LeVine played the semi-completed mix to Femi’s brother Seun, as they sat in his house in Lagos, Seun’s body – and those of everyone else in the room – couldn’t stop moving. When the track ended, he happily discussed how they could collaborate again on the project, perhaps with one his songs and young musicians in Port Harcourt, where LeVine has been recording a new version of ‘No Agreement’ about the disastrous state of the Niger Delta with local musicians.

Freemuse has exclusively been given permission to send this yet unmastered but largely final mix — that is: the arrangement is finished and the mix is largely complete, but could be tweaked before release on the band’s next album – to radio broadcasters.

Fela is surely dancing.

All the best

Ole Reitov

» Read more about Music Freedom Day on

» Music Freedom Day 2016: ‘From Zombies to Revolutionaries’