Sorrow Tears and Blood (Edit) out now

On September 4, 1984, 36 years ago today, Fela was arrested under the pretense of attempting to unlawfully export foreign currency – funds which he had drawn from his own British bank account. He was convicted later that year. The circumstances surrounding his arrest and conviction indicated that both were politically motivated, and led Amnesty International to launch an investigation into the case. This investigation and ensuing "Free Fela" campaign (supported by Herbie Hancock, David Byrne, Ginger Baker, and more) helped release Fela from prison in 1986. This unjust arrest was one of many examples in Fela's life that demonstrated the power of a corrupt government that Fela so adamantly opposed. (Spin Magazine)

"Sorrow Tears and Blood," which was released in 1977, is another example of Fela calling attention to the power of the military. Although often assumed to be inspired by the February 1977 army attack on Kalakuta Republic, “Sorrow Tears And Blood” was written in response to the South African regime’s crushing of the Soweto uprising in June 1976, which Lemi (who designed the sleeve artwork) and Fela had watched unfold on television. During the uprising and the ensuing riots, hundreds of students were killed. The song calls out killings that have gone on in the name of authority and totalitarian rule as well as the instruments of repression of colonial Africa – the police and the army.

The album was among the first of those Fela released following the destruction of Kalakuta Republic. An early sleeve design used a photograph showing Fela onstage in the aftermath of the outrage, his left leg still in plaster. He dedicated the album “to the memory of those who were beaten, raped, tortured or injured” during the Kalakuta attack. The police and army invariably leave behind them “sorrow, tears and blood,” Fela sings, and the backing vocalists respond, “dem regular trademark.” Decca refused to release the album, fearing government reprisals. Fela responded by setting up Kalakuta Records and making the disc the label’s debut release.

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