Fela Kuti, the self-stylised “Black President”, is one of a small number of Nigerian artists to have made their name known overseas. Although there are many African musicians who deserve more respect than they receive, Fela is more than worthy of his acclaim. Water No Get Enemy is one of his most remarkable creations.
With cultural roots that date back to 1920s Ghana, Afrobeat is a genre that blends traditional African music with jazz and funk. Colourful, expressive and energetic, the genre was named by Fela Kuti in the ‘60s and has remained a cultural touchstone in African music ever since. One of the greatest offerings of Afrobeat is 1975’s Water No Get Enemy, in which a hypnotic rhythm takes the listener on a ten-minute journey.
Utilizing both Yoruba language and pidgin English in his lyrics, Fela explores water, both literally and metaphorically. Water is a universal component that is essential to nearly anything in life. To wash, to cook soup, to cool down; you require water. For a child to grow, they need water - but a child can also drown in water. The song also becomes a voice for Fela’s criticisms of the Nigerian government, who led a violent dictatorship at the time of release.
From its life-bringing saxophone, to keys that strike through the atmosphere, to the rhythmic, everpresent percussion, Water No Get Enemy paints a vibrant picture in the mind. It carries the spirit of funk and jazz, but offers something authentically different. For those that have never found the time to appreciate African music, this track is an excellent place to start.